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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 5

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 5.

“It remains an enduring challenge to our nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity,” Justice Kennedy wrote for the 4-to-3 majority.

Some colleges, such as Duke and Bucknell universities, said they would wait to see how the Education Department proceeds in issuing new guidance. Other colleges said they would proceed with diversifying their campuses as the Supreme Court intended.

Melodie Jackson, a Harvard spokeswoman, said the university would “continue to vigorously defend its right, and that of all colleges and universities, to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court for more than 40 years.”

A spokeswoman for the University of Michigan, which won a major Supreme Court case in 2003, suggested that the flagship university would like more freedom to consider race, not less. But it is already constrained by state law. After the case, Michigan voters enacted a constitutional ban on race-conscious college admissions policies.

Where are we headed? Tough to know!

1) Discrimination against Asian-Americans is significant, unpopular and very hard to justify. A Republican Supreme Court is going to find it hard to allow it to continue, at least officially. I suspect that decisions like Fisher v. Texas are in trouble, although any eventual over-turning might be several years out.

2) The Deep State of elite education is not so easily defeated. Affirmative Action — treating applicants differently on the basis of their race — is already illegal in states like California and Michigan and, yet, it still goes on sub rosa.

3) Elite institutions like Harvard are determined and resourceful. Their defense in the current lawsuit is, quite frankly, genius. Harvard creates a personal rating for all applicants. Asian-Americans do much worse on this metric. Once you account for these scores, Harvard (probably!) does not discriminate. And, since those (totally opaque!) scores are under Harvard’s complete control, there is no way to prove that it is discriminating or to stop it from doing so.

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 4

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 4.

The Trump administration’s moves come with affirmative action at a crossroads. Hard-liners in the Justice and Education Departments are moving against any use of race as a measurement of diversity in education. And the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the end of this month will leave the Supreme Court without its swing vote on affirmative action while allowing President Trump to nominate a justice opposed to policies that for decades have tried to integrate elite educational institutions.

Note the rhetoric:

1) “Hardliners” are people who object to discrimination/quotas against Asian-Americans. Would the New York Times have used that word in 1925 to describe people who objected to Jewish quotas at Harvard?

2) No one is “moving against any use of race as a measurement of diversity.” Ken Marcus does not care how Williams measures “diversity.” Williams can measure diversity however it wants! Marcus (and the rest of the Federal Government) object to Williams — as a recipient of federal funds via student loans — treating applicants differently on the basis of their race.

A highly anticipated case is pitting Harvard against Asian-American students who say one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions has systematically excluded some Asian-American applicants to maintain slots for students of other races. That case is clearly aimed at the Supreme Court.

The Harvard case is fascinating. It goes to trial in October. Should we provide more coverage? Again, it is unclear if Williams (today) discriminates against Asian-Americans the way that Harvard does. But the demographics and other societal changes mean that, unless we start doing so in the future, Williams will be 40% Asian-American a generation from now. I don’t have a problem with that. Do you?

“The whole issue of using race in education is being looked at with a new eye in light of the fact that it’s not just white students being discriminated against, but Asians and others as well,” said Roger Clegg, the president and general counsel of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity. “As the demographics of the country change, it becomes more and more problematic.”

Indeed. Recall my favorite chart:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

SAT scores are highly correlated with every other aspect of your academic profile: ACT, AP, subject tests, high school grades, teacher recommendations, essay quality, et cetera. Since Asian-Americans make up 50%+ of the highest SAT scorers, they almost are almost certainly 50%+ of the highest ACT, high school transcript, et cetera applicants. Why is Harvard only at 20%? Discrimination. Why is Williams only at 20%? Hard to know! We might discriminate, but, as with Jews almost a 100 years ago, the discrepancy might be caused by applicant preferences.

The key point — and one that smart guys like Roger Clegg and Ken Marcus will focus on — is that discrimination against Asian-Americans is a hard sell. When Marcus was cutting his teeth on affirmative action debates back in the 80s, it was much easier to justify discrimination against white applicants. First, they (being part of the power structure) were not particularly sympathetic victims. Second, their ancestors were plausibly guilty of historical crimes which required restitution. Third, they were such a large majority that a marginal decrease in their numbers did not seem a large price to pay for increased diversity.

I don’t think any of those arguments are going to work in the case of discrimination against Asian-Americans. And once Clegg/Marcus force places like Harvard/Williams to stop discriminating against Asian-Americans, how long will they be able to discriminate against whites?

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 3

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 3.

Under Mr. Marcus’s leadership, the Louis D. Brandeis Center, a human rights organization that champions Jewish causes, filed an amicus brief in 2012, the first time the Supreme Court heard Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. In the brief, the organization argued that “race conscious admission standards are unfair to individuals, and unhealthy for society at large.”

Is that brief enough to label Marcus as a “vocal opponent” of affirmative action? If so, every (almost) Republican is one. Again, I suspect that a large majority of Americans — including many EphBlog readers? — would agree that “race conscious admission standards are unfair to individuals.” Although perhaps “unfair” is unduly loaded? Williams treats smart applicants differently then dumb applicants, which is either “unfair” or “necessary to achieve our educational goals,” depending on your point of view.

The organization argued that Asian-American students were particularly victimized by race “quotas” that were once used to exclude Jewish people.

This is beyond dispute, at least at places like HYPS. (Again, it is not clear if Williams (meaningfully) discriminates against Asian-Americans in admissions. As in the case of Jews 75 years ago, Williams may not get as many applications (or as high a yield) as HYP do/did.)

As the implications for affirmative action for college admissions play out in court, it is unclear what the decision holds for elementary and secondary schools. New York City is embroiled in a debate about whether to change its entrance standard — currently a single test — for its most prestigious high schools to allow for more black and Latino students.

If NYC wants to cancel its admissions tests for places like Stuyvesant, Ken Marcus won’t care (much). If NYC (or Williams) wants to change its admissions policies, Ken won’t care (much). What he does care about (a lot!) is whether or not, say, African-American and Asian-American applicants are treated the same, either by NYC or by Williams. If they are not, he is now in a position to bring the full weight and power of the Federal Government against NYC/Williams.

Do you have a problem with that? Tough! You (and I am sure that this applies to 90% (99%?) of EphBlog readers) had no problem when the Federal Government was bossing around private institutions (like Bob Jones University) or local/state governments (like the city of Little Rock, Arkansas). And maybe you were right! But, having created the monster to do “good,” don’t be surprised when the monster turns its pitiless gaze toward you . . .

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 2

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 2.

Ms. DeVos has seemed hesitant to wade in on the fate of affirmative action policies, which date back to a 57-year-old executive order by President John F. Kennedy, who recognized systemic and discriminatory disadvantages for women and minorities. The Education Department did not partake in the Justice Department’s formal interest in Harvard’s litigation.

“I think this has been a question before the courts and the courts have opined,” Ms. DeVos told The Associated Press.

But Ms. DeVos’s new head of civil rights, Kenneth L. Marcus, may disagree. A vocal opponent of affirmative action, Mr. Marcus was confirmed last month on a party-line Senate vote, and it was Mr. Marcus who signed Tuesday’s letter.

1) I am not sure if “vocal opponent of affirmative action” is a fair description. Most Republican are against Affirmative Action, at least against the 200+ SAT point gaps that bedevil schools like Williams. Marcus is a Republican, so it is hardly surprising that he is against it. But “vocal” implies that he goes out of his way to write about this topic, speak about it, tweet about it and so on. Does he? Not that I have seen.

2) Note how the rhetoric is designed to make the reader dislike Marcus. (Being in favor of something is a more positive-sounding description that being an opponent.) There is a reason that the Times does not describe Marcus as a “strong proponent of color-blind policies” or as someone who “wants colleges to judge applicants on a basis other than the color of their skin.” A “vocal opponent” is weird, strange, backward.

3) Nowhere in the article does it mention how popular Marcus’s views are. A clear majority of Americans are against Affirmative Action as it is currently practiced at places like Williams. Popularity does not mean, of course, that Marcus is right, but shielding its readers from these unpleasant facts does them a disservice. Or maybe they like the cocoon?

4) Anyone have any Marcus stories from his Williams days?

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 1

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 1.

From The New York Times:

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it was abandoning Obama administration policies that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses, signaling that the administration will champion race-blind admissions standards.

In a joint letter, the Education and Justice Departments announced that they had rescinded seven Obama-era policy guidelines on affirmative action, which, the departments said, “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.”

1) Marcus will be at the center of the debate over affirmative action at places like Williams for the next 2 (or 6?!?) years. Very convenient for EphBlog!

2) Say what you will about Trump’s focus/competence/ideology, but, in this part of the Federal Government at least, we are getting serious Republican/conservative policy-making, good and hard. You may dislike Marcus’s ideology, but he is very, very smart. He, and his peers at Justice, are going to do everything in their power to make affirmative action disappear. Underestimate them at your peril.

3) One of my favorite post-election memes illustrates the problem that Democrats/liberals face:

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 1.53.22 PM

If the Federal Government were less powerful, then Marcus would not be able to change admissions policy at places like Williams. (And that would certainly be my preference! I think that the Federal Government should leave private institutions like Williams alone.) But my Democratic/progressive/liberal friends want a powerful Federal Government, one with the ability to tell everyone else how to run their affairs. Be careful what you wish for!

Entire New York Times article below:

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Confederation of Deplorables

An anonymous faculty member writes:

My father was a laborer all his life. Our entire home life was shaped by his weekly shift postings: one week, 0700-1600, the next 1600-1200, and the third 1200-0700. My parents grew up and married during the Depression and became solid FDR adherents. So our household was a solid Democratic bastion. And when I came of age, I followed my parents’ lead, registered Democrat, and voted Democrat. And I remain a registered Democrat, perhaps out of familial or working-class-origin loyalty. But, please note, I haven’t voted Democratic in more than 30 years because of the Democrats’ profound leftist lunge and its betrayal of its former constituents, like my parents and me.

I mention this because current party affiliation is not necessarily a reliable indication of one’s political sentiments. I remain a registered Democrat, simply because of my family history. I can’t affiliate myself with RINOs and/or country-club Republicans. I’m a proud Deplorable. Ironically, we owe the detestable HRC for our name. Do you know that there is a small, quiet, but stalwart confederation of Deplorables among Williams faculty members, who not only deplore the rapid (does any other word apply?) Democratic/media attack on President Trump, but who also deplore the radical leftist policies instituted by presidents/deans/administrators of Williams College?

Are there really? I like to consider myself a friendly acquaintance — mostly via e-mail but also in person — of many (most?) of the non-liberal/progressive members of the faculty. I have only met one who thought highly enough of Trump to vote for him.

More importantly, why is this “confederation of Deplorables” so quiet? Many (all?) of them have tenure. Why not speak up? Recall:

With Richard Herrnstein, the late Harvard professor, he [Charles Murray] was about to publish The Bell Curve. There were early warnings that the co-authors would come in for a rough time of it. Murray was in the Herrnstein home, having a nightcap. And he said to the professor, “Exactly why are we doing this anyway?” Herrnstein recalled the day he got tenure, and how happy he was, thinking what it meant: For the rest of his life, he was free to do the work he loved at a place he loved. “I said to myself, there has to be a catch. And I figured out what it was: You have to tell the truth.”

Indeed.

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Faculty Political Diversity, 3

Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 3.

Nicholas Goldrosen ’20 reported in January for the Record that:

Over the course of 2017, faculty and staff employed by the College contributed a total of $20,325.22 to candidates and committees in federal elections, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosures. All of these contributions went to Democratic or Democrat-leaning candidates or committees. The vast majority of contributions were modest, and individuals often made multiple contributions over the course of the year.

In 2017, 76 individuals who listed their employers as “Williams College” or some subsidiary – and did not list their occupations as “student” – made a total of 1240 contributions in federal elections. Of the 76 people who made contributions, 43 were members of the faculty and 33 were employed as staff members.

Comments:

1) Goldrosen fails to quote a single person in this story. Why? Reporting 101 is: Go out and talk to people and tell your readers what they say. There are faculty who are experts in US politics. Ask them questions! There are students involved in political campaigns and fund-raising. Interview them!

2) I asked Goldrosen to share the data with us. He never responded to my e-mail. Advice to our readers: Always respond to (non-spam) e-mails. The more people you network with, the better your career will be.

3) The FEC data is public. Should I spend sometime going through it?

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Faculty Political Diversity, 2

Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 2.

Recall our previous discussions about which Williams professors might be considered to be on the non-left-wing side of the faculty as a whole. Of those candidates, here are the ones that appear in Langbert’s data:

  
  name       sex   rank      dob        field       distance registration   age
                                      
1 Miller     M     Associate REDACTED   Mathematics    0.800 R             44.0
2 Paul       M     Professor REDACTED   Political      1.90  NP            50.0
3 McAllister M     Professor REDACTED   Political      2.20  NP            54.0
4 Kirby      M     Professor REDACTED   Psychology     1.90  NP            55.0
5 Marcus     M     Professor REDACTED   Political      0.400 D             75.0
6 Jackall    M     Professor NA         Sociology     NA     NR            NA  
7 Lewis      M     Professor NA         Art           NA     R             NA  
8 Strauch    M     Associate NA         Physics       NA     NR            NA  

UPDATE: See below.

Mathematics Professor Steve Miller is the only registered Republican on the Williams faculty. He is the “1” in the 132:1 ratio that Langbert reports.

Having only one Republican professor at Williams is about as bad as an alternate reality in which Williams had only one African-American professor. I am comfortable with people claiming that neither situation is a concern because Williams faculty teach in an unbiased fashion: you can’t tell from their lectures or their grading what their politics or race are. I am also comfortable with people claiming that both situations are a matter of great concern that the College should work to fix. I am uncomfortable with the current Williams view: We desperately need to increase racial diversity and we don’t need to worry about political diversity.

dcat asks what we should do. That is easy!

Williams could have the exact same set of policies about faculty political diversity as it has about faculty racial diversity. For example, Williams could keep track of (and report) on political diversity in the same way that it does racial diversity. It could insist that departments go out of their way to advertise positions in ways likely to come to the attention of politically diverse candidates. It could require (or strongly urge) departments — as it now does — to have at least one fly-out candidate who helps with political diversity. It could create positions for which the hiring pool is much more likely to be politically diverse. And so on.

This won’t make Williams 50/50 anytime soon, but it would quickly lead to a Williams with 10+ republican/libertarian/conservative faculty members, thereby (one hopes!) creating a very different political environment on campus.

UPDATE: I redacted birthdays by request. Although birthdays are public information (else how did Langbert find them), we like to stay on good terms with our faculty readers! Separately, Michael Lewis reports to EphBlog that he is a registered Republican in Williamstown. So, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans among the Williams faculty is 66:1. EphBlog gets results!

UPDATE II: Professor Miller writes:

I’ve held many political affiliations over the years, often due to what party’s primary I want to vote in. I was a registered Democrat in MA for awhile until the Affordable Care Act was passed. I view myself as a Conservative Libertarian.

Thanks for the clarification!

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Faculty Political Diversity, 1

Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 1.

Langbert writes:

In this article I offer new evidence about something readers of Academic Questions already know: The political registration of full-time, Ph.D.-holding professors in top-tier liberal arts colleges is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Key table:

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 12.48.49 PM

Am I truly a right-wing nutjob for wanting Williams to have more than a single Republican faculty member? I hope not!

The data is very interesting, not least because it includes date of birth and distance (or residence) from Williams. Here are the youngest and oldest faculty:

   name      sex   rank      dob        field       distance registration   age
                                      
 1 Friedman  F     Professor 1987-12-25 Language       0.900 D             30.0
 2 Heggeseth F     Assistant 1986-05-23 Mathematics    2.00  D             31.0
 3 Smalarz   F     Professor 1986-08-08 Psychology     0.400 D             31.0
 4 Simko     F     Assistant 1984-09-21 Sociology      0.900 D             33.0
 5 Leight    F     Assistant 1984-11-15 Economics      0.200 NP            33.0
 6 Phelan    M     Assistant 1984-12-10 Economics      0.400 NP            33.0
 7 Blackwood F     Assistant 1984-06-08 Mathematics    0.600 D             33.0
 8 Johnson   M     Professor 1937-05-22 Art           11.4   D             80.0
 9 Graver    F     Professor 1936-08-17 English        1.30  D             81.0
10 Beaver    M     Professor 1936-07-16 History        0.400 NP            81.0
11 Dew       M     Professor 1937-05-01 History        1.00  D             81.0

Immediately, we see some problems with the data. Friedman and Smalarz were not professors at such a young age. In fact, (Nicole) Friedman does not really belong in the data set at all because she was not tenure-track. I have reported these issues to Langbert. Overall, however, the data looks very good to me. Do other people see any problems?

Here are the professors that live furthest away:

  name     sex   rank      dob        field     distance registration   age
                                  
1 Pye      M     Professor 1953-09-06 English       47.0 D             64.0
2 Merrill  F     Professor 1963-12-02 History       58.3 D             54.0
3 Ephraim  F     Assistant 1978-12-03 Political     69.8 D             39.0
4 Campbell F     Assistant 1981-03-06 Music        132   NP            37.0
5 Limon    M     Professor 1951-08-29 English      159   D             66.0

Do John Limon and Corrina Cambell really live more than 100 miles away? I have my doubts. Also note that some other professors (e.g., Singham) who I think live in different states are shown as living near by. So, I am not sure I would trust the distance data that much.

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 5.10.09 PM

None of us are concerned with students being “brainwashed” — although never forget the saga of Jennifer Kling ’98. The issue is political diversity. If racial diversity is important for the faculty, then why isn’t political diversity?

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Statement of Solidarity with Israel, 2

Last Tuesday, the Transnational Wall Demonstration was put up in Paresky lawn, and an accompanying email was sent out. The wall was meant to show solidarity between those of Palestinian and Mexican identity who struggle with walls and borders in their daily lives, and an accompanying talk was given.

In response to this, a student wrote and circulated a Statement of Solidarity with Israel, and the student gathered signatures and published his document in the Record. It gathered 65+ signatures, which can be viewed in the above link.

Day 2.

Discussion after the break.

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Statement of Solidarity with Israel, 1

Last Tuesday, the Transnational Wall Demonstration was put up in Paresky lawn, and an accompanying email was sent out. The wall was meant to show solidarity between those of Palestinian and Mexican identity who struggle with walls and borders in their daily lives, and an accompanying talk was given.

In response to this, a student wrote and circulated a Statement of Solidarity with Israel, and the student gathered signatures and published his document in the Record. It gathered 65+ signatures, which can be viewed in the above link.

Let’s take a few days to talk about the wall and this response.

Discussion after the break. Read more

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Zero African-American Phi Beta Kappa Graduates in 2017

In the Williams College class of 2017, there were 71 Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) graduates. None of them were African-American. (Full list of students available in the course catalog, and reprinted below the break for your convenience.) Comments:

1) There were 38 African-American first years in 2013-2014 (pdf). Some of those students transferred or took time off. Some African-American students from earlier years ended up in this class. We don’t know the total number of African-American graduates in the class of 2017, but it was probably around 35.

2) Since Phi Beta Kappa is the top 12.5% of the class, we would expect about 4 African-American PBK graduates. Of course, there will be random variation. Perhaps this year is low but, in other years, African-Americans are over-represented? Alas, that does not appear to be the case; there were zero African-American PBK graduates in 2009 and 2010 as well.

3) A relevant news hook is the “scandal” over UPenn law professor Amy Wax claiming that African-American law students “rarely” graduate in the top half of their class. The difference between EphBlog and Amy Wax, obviously, is that we have the data. (Williams declined to confirm or deny our analysis.)

4) Should we spend a few days discussing the reasons for this anomaly? If the Record were a real paper, it would investigate this statistic and interview senior faculty and administrators about it.

Williams 2017 Phi Beta Kappa graduates:
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Diversity Circus: A Self-Perpetuating Administrative Pathology

An anonymous Williams professor explains faculty hiring:

The Dean of the Faculty and the CAP oversee hiring at every stage. When a department wants a new line they have to apply to the CAP, explaining why it necessary to have a Professor of Widgetry, why other professors in the department can’t teach widgetry, and how having a specialist in widgetry will dovetail with offerings in other departments.

The CAP then approves or denies the line. This is necessary because departments only see their own needs and priorities; CAP and the DoF have (in theory anyway) a view of staffing needs across departments. They may also have a specific vision of where the college should be moving. All of this is–again in theory–a Good Thing.

After you get the line, the department must seek approval for every subsequent stage of the search. The job ad has to be approved. Shortlists have to be approved. Finalists are all interviewed by the CAP, and ultimately the CAP has to approve hires. (So do the Trustees, as already noted in this thread.) These safeguards are in place to preserve and enforce academic standards. They are how the administration ensures that departments actually hire for the position they received permission to hire in. Because all new hirees must have their tenure decisions approved by the CAP, it also makes sense to have this same committee approve their initial job offer.

The problem is that enforcing academic standards isn’t really the flavor of the month anymore. The Dean of the Faculty and the CAP flex their muscles primarily on behalf of diversity. Academic standards seem, increasingly, to be matters of secondary concern. The diversity pressure is applied at all stages of the process and really seems to corrupt it. You might not get approval for your professorship of widgetry unless you redefine the position with some political or diversity edge. You need to hire a Professor of Subaltern Widgetry, the unspoken hope being that this kind of line will ultimately result in a minority hire. Affirmative action forms go to the associate dean for institutional diversity. At every stage of shortlisting, this person has to be consulted to ensure that minority candidates aren’t disproportionately eliminated due to implicit bias. This is despite the fact that in most cases the hiring department has no clarity on the race of specific applicants. As for the CAP interactions with finalists, my impression has been that their academic standards are well below that of the hiring department. Again diversity looms as the major concern.

A few observations: The faculty-facing admins must struggle to judge the quality of any individual candidate. Only the hiring department has that kind of expertise. The hall monitors have a particular proclivity for diversity mongering because that kind of thing *is* eminently legible to the CAP and the DoF. The diversity circus thus becomes a self-perpetuating administrative pathology.

Weird things happen when you make faculty demographics a leading priority. You can’t actually advertise for minority candidates, so positions have to be redefined such that they are more likely (in the eyes of administrators) to yield a critical mass of minority applicants. You might have had 100 candidates in your search for a Professor of Widgetry. Now that you’ve clarified you want a Professor of Subaltern Widgetry you might only have a few dozen candidates. Other schools are playing the same game, so any minority finalists will very probably turn out to be heavily recruited, with multiple offers from other institutions. In these cases we’re not redressing any past injustices, as the minority candidates would’ve clearly entered the academy regardless of our search. When you do finally hire the professor of subaltern widgetry, it will turn out that most of their curricular offerings and scholarship are a critique of the broader field of widgetry. But you don’t have any ordinary professor of Widgetry, remember, so the meaning and relevance of this critique for students will always be an issue.

This agrees with everything I have heard, both about Williams and about elite schools in general. Any dissenting views?

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Hall Monitors of the Diversity Brigade

From an anonymous faculty member:

I think Seery paints a very partial picture of “politically correct scripting,” one calibrated to spare his colleagues. At Williams I’d say the diversity brigade has three pillars of support: 1) Student life administrators and elements in the office of the Dean of the College, 2) more or less the entire office of the Dean of the Faculty, and 3) a substantial faculty bloc, consisting particularly of faculty in politically sensitive fields.

I want to emphasize that I like a lot of these people individually. Almost invariably they are personally well-meaning and generous. Collectively, though….

Faculty side admins put pressure on hiring and strive to define new positions in such a way as to yield the right kind of candidates, thus expanding the faculty bloc. Here it is important to note that diversity considerations provide a pretense for the administration to interfere in matters of departmental governance where it most matters, i.e. hiring and promotion. As long as this remains the case, upper administrators will always have reason to sponsor the circus. Meanwhile, politically conscious faculty and the student-facing admins create, coordinate and direct activist tendencies among our acolytes. This process makes a lot of things happen. One of them is that a great part of the campus-wide discourse is directed to identity politics 2.0, the constant elaboration of theories of repression and dominance. Another is that the process reinforces itself as student discontent demonstrates the need for more diversity-brigade staffing and more diversity-brigade activity.

I don’t know what my point here is really. I guess the Davis Center putting out lawn signs is the least of it. These are just incidental manifestations of a constant dialogue about oppression and oppressors that is echoed by many of our invited speakers, that recurs constantly in informal discussions by the Hollander espresso machine, and in faculty and committee meetings, infecting almost every social interaction (seriously, from mundane scheduling matters, to curriculum tinkering and syllabus design, internal administrative chores, you name it). On the one hand I teach my classes and write my articles and work out and I’m fine. On the other hand, the hall monitors of the diversity brigade, so quick to detect structural oppression in their opponents, have become stunningly blind to their own powers and repressive tendencies. Also there is an anti-intellectual aspect to their rhetoric that I find increasingly embarrassing.

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Diversity, in All Its Forms: Conservative Society President Speaks on Claiming Williams Day

On February 1st, classes were cancelled for the tenth annual Claiming Williams Day celebration of topics related to diversity and inclusion.

Conservative Society President John DiGravio ’21 was invited by student organizers to give a speech at a Claiming Williams morning event. The presentation, titled “Diversity, in All Its Forms: Conservative Thought at Williams” was delivered to 130 students, faculty, and administrators assembled in Griffin Hall. After articulating the foundations of his personal commitment to diversity of perspective, John explained the extent to which the College is failing to ensure the intellectual diversity of the curriculum and campus community. He then described the Society’s efforts to address this issue and called upon members of the Williams community to uphold their commitment to diversity in all its forms.

John has spoken at a number of public engagements related to intellectual diversity and conservative thought at Williams. If you would like to continue the conversation initiated in this speech, or arrange for John to present at another event, please contact him at jjd6@williams.edu.

For the latest updates on the activities of the Williams College Society for Conservative Thought, please visit and bookmark our new website: https://www.wcsct.org/.
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Society for Conservative Thought Hosts Chris Gibson

On Wednesday, January 10th, the Society for Conservative Thought held its inaugural public event featuring Chris Gibson’s presentation,“What it Means to Be a Conservative.” Dr. Gibson previously served as a U.S. Army colonel and U.S. representative, and is currently Stanley Kaplan Distinguished Visiting Professor of American Foreign Policy in the Williams leadership studies program.

Addressing the audience of 45 students, administrators, and community locals, Dr. Gibson asserted the importance of the “conservation of the founding principles” and the recognition of their enduring value in the modern world. With many references to American history and European political philosophy, he described the miracle of the American political experiment and the critical need to maintain “the spirit of Philadelphia” which conceived of it. Students then stayed for over an hour to participate in a Q&A session in which Dr. Gibson outlined concrete legislative actions to improve the American political system, drawing upon his experiences from serving in Congress.

Following the discussion, the Society offered complimentary copies of Dr. Gibson’s most recent book, Rally Point: Five Tasks to Unite the Country and Revitalize the American Dream, courtesy of the Society’s budget.

The invitation of distinguished guests to voice conservative principles on campus is essential to the mission of the Society for Conservative Thought. If you can refer such individuals who would be interested in contributing to a future event, please contact jjd6@williams.edu.

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A New Year, A New Era for Williams College

Alumni and Friends of Williams College,

I am pleased to announce that the student representatives of College Council have formally approved the incipient Society for Conservative Thought as a registered student organization. This milestone has been made possible through the tireless and earnest contributions of faculty members and many students, to all of whom I am deeply grateful.

Since my arrival at Williams as a freshman this fall, I have become increasingly alarmed by the extent of the liberal intellectual uniformity of the curriculum and campus community. Fellow students upholding all varieties of political and social beliefs have confided to me their concerns that the explicit liberal bias is inhibitive to the attainment of a well-rounded liberal arts education, and that alternative views are frequently neglected, misrepresented, and ridiculed without basis. This close-mindedness breeds a shallow and hegemonic intellectual environment in which students do not feel able to freely express non-conforming ideas. As asserted by the campus administration during the First Days presentations, it is a mission of the College to promote diversity “in all its forms.” Diversity, however, should not be restricted to classifications of racial, sexual, and socioeconomic identities—at an educational institution, it must include diversity of thought. Though the administration has openly acknowledged the problem of liberal homogeneity in the official 2005 Diversity Initiatives Self-Study, in which students described “a lack of tolerance of diversity of thought” regarding conservative philosophies (pg. 10), the College has taken no meaningful measure to improve the situation and there are no existing student organizations dedicated to the study of conservative beliefs.

The Society for Conservative Thought is the product of the current student movement to broaden the intellectual diversity of the College and establish an academic refuge where students can engage with the rich intellectual tradition of conservatism in the vein of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. As a non-partisan and non-activist organization, we invite students of all varieties of political and social beliefs to expand their academic horizons and study, discuss, and even challenge ideas that are underrepresented in the Williams curriculum. Unlike other student organizations which have attempted to prompt dialogue through spectacle and incendiary controversies, the Society will foster a genuine understanding and appreciation of conservative principles through group readings and discussions, debates, and invited speakers. The Society is sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a prestigious and well-endowed organization founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1953 for the promotion of conservative ideas on college campuses. Through ISI, the Society has access to educational resources, a bureau of distinguished speakers, and special off-campus events, all free of charge.

I understand that there is a strong contingent of alumni who are rightfully disaffected with the intellectual climate of the College. To alumni: may this message inspire you with the knowledge that there are many among the student body who share your concerns and are striving to right the situation. The Society will be a liaison between the student and alumni communities, and we look forward to hearing your advice as we forge lasting bonds of friendship in our joint effort to establish true diversity of thought at the College. Please contact me to learn more and become involved in our mission—Williams needs you.

At this moment the intellectual affairs of the College face a fateful crossroads of critical importance. By the end of this academic year, the two most prominent campus advocates for free thought will have retired and graduated, and a new president will be taking office. For over two centuries, Williams has formed the minds, hearts, and souls of generations of students who have effected incredible and outsized impacts on our nation and the world. Will the College endanger this legacy by continuing to stifle the holistic intellectual growth of its students? Perhaps, but I promise that the Society will do everything within its power to provide Williams students with a refuge for free thought and the unprejudiced study of the true, good, and beautiful.

Society activities will commence during the Winter Study period. We will read selections from William F. Buckley Jr.’s God and Man at Yale, Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism, and Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, as well as host a number of speakers drawn from distinguished faculty members and alumni. Those with questions or interest in our efforts may contact me at jjd6@williams.edu.

Sincerely,

John J. DiGravio ‘21

President, Williams College Society for Conservative Thought

“Veritas Vos Liberabit”

 

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College Censorship Anniversary

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

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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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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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EOP V

The Equality of Opportunity Project gathers amazing data on the incomes of college graduates and their families. The New York Times provides an overview and this summary (pdf) of Williams data. Day 5 of 5 on this topic.

I love this graphic:

scatter

At the same time, I don’t quite know what to do with it. Comments:

1) I encourage readers to poke around with the original. The big earners are mostly graduates of pharmacy schools. Is being a pharmacist really that lucrative? Is the median income of someone who graduates from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy really over $120,000 at age 32?

2) I have not figured out exactly how they handle complexities in the data. For example, how do they separate out the incomes from married couples filing jointly? How do they calculate the income for someone who is a stay-at-home mom or dad?

3) Another key attribute to control for is occupation. We don’t care much if Duke graduates earn more than Williams graduates if the cause is that more Ephs become teachers. But if Eph teachers and Eph investment bankers both earn less money than Duke teachers/bankers, we should figure out why.

Comments from our readers?

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EOP IV

The Equality of Opportunity Project gathers amazing data on the incomes of college graduates and their families. The New York Times provides an overview and this summary (pdf) of Williams data. Day 4 of 5 on this topic.

married

1) Are you surprised by the variation in marriage rates among NESCAC schools? I am! Why would 61% of Colby students be married but only 48% at Trinity? Should we be pleased or upset that the number at Williams is, at 57%, below average?

2) There is a great senior thesis to be written about changing patterns of marriage among Williams graduates. In the US population, marriages rates over the last 50 years have dropped dramatically. I think that this is true among the graduates of elite colleges, but can’t find the relevant data. Certainly, the percentage of heterosexual male Ephs who were unmarried at age 40 was very low, at least through graduating classes in the 80s. Single digits? My sense (contrary opinions welcome!) is that the marriage rate among female Eph graduates is lower, probably because of hypergamy.

3) Could a determined Williams president affect the marriage rate? I bet he could! Should he? I think so. Few things correlated better with life outcomes than marriage. (Of course, there are huge correlation/causation problems.)

4) Consider this recent comment, from “girls @ williams” on the annual fall in love post.

Contrary to what seems to be the general belief here, women at Williams do not actually exist as a selection pool from which to pick your future wife / future child-bearer. Of course, I’m sure that the group of men who spend their time obsessively posting distorted facts about the College at which they spent their peak years and now continue to pathetically long for are among the most attractive personages to have ever graduated the hallowed halls of Williams *sarcasm*.

That seems uncharitable! I was urging Williams male undergraduates to ask out female undergraduates. Does our commentator want more of that or less of it?

Perhaps more importantly, it seems that this Eph has not been given “the talk” by her family. EphBlog is here to help! Nothing, other than religious belief, is more associated with female happiness in the US than marriage. You will never be prettier than you are now. You will never have such a high quality pool of potential husbands to pick from. Choose one now. And invite EphBlog to the wedding!

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EOP III

The Equality of Opportunity Project gathers amazing data on the incomes of college graduates and their families. The New York Times provides an overview and this summary (pdf) of Williams data. Day 3 of 5 on this topic.

The central point about socio-economic diversity that I have been making for more than a decade is that there is no evidence that Williams is more economically diverse now than it was 30 years ago, and probably even 50 or 100 years ago. It is embarrassing how often the Williams administration (names like Payne, Schapiro, Hill, Falk and Dudley come to mind) claim that we are more economically diverse and how quickly naive reporters like David Leonhardt of The New York Times are to believe them. Recall the question that I have suggested for years:

In 1998, the 426th poorest family at Williams had a family income of $63,791. What is the family income of the 426th poorest family at Williams today? How has that number changed over the last two decades?

If the Record were a competent paper, or David Leonhardt were a competent reporter, than this is the question that would be asked. It/he isn’t, and so we have been left with just my rants. But now we have data!

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Summary: Williams did not become (meaningfully) more economically diverse between the classes of 2005 and 2013. Eyeballing the chart, it looks like about 19% of the students in the class of 2006 were from families in the bottom 60% of the income distribution. For the class of 2013, it was 20%. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Recall my analysis from 2008:

We can see that there is no evidence that the socio-economic diversity of Williams has increased in the last decade and some circumstantial evidence that it has stayed the same.

The EOP proves that I was right. There was no good evidence that economic diversity had meaningfully increased at Williams between 1998 and 2008. The EOP data, which goes through the class of 2013, shows the same thing.

More importantly, we know that the same trend has continued up through the class of 2021, as we discussed on Monday. In fact, this sure seems similar to the data we know for the class of 1998.

Quibbles:

1) The above chart is drawn from this collection, which shows the trends for various cuts of the income distribution. There is no perfect single measure of income inequality. Other charts, like that for the percentage of students from the top 20%, might put Williams in a better light. But even these charts, to the extent that they show changes in the direction of more economic diversity, show incredibly small changes, perhaps even within the appropriate confidence intervals.

2) We are being fast and loose with many of the relevant details. The numbers we studied in 2008 were based on all the students at Williams over the years between 1998 and 2008. In other words, each number was provided for all 2,000 students on campus in a given academic year. The EOP data is, I think, based on birth year, which provides, at best, an imperfect mapping to graduation class.

3) We should try to get our hands on the underlying data for Williams and some other peer schools. Any volunteers? Any readers with connections to Chetty et al?

4) Any predictions as to whether or not US News will use this data in its next set of rankings? Should it?

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EOP II

The Equality of Opportunity Project gathers amazing data on the incomes of college graduates and their families. The New York Times provides an overview and this summary (pdf) of Williams data. Day 2 of 5 on this topic.

income2

Click on the image, or check out The Times directly, for more detail. But the basic message is simple: Williams is a rich families school in absolute terms, but less so than its NESCAC peers. Comments:

1) Again, this has little (nothing?) to do with the moral rectitude or policy preferences of the presidents and trustees of these schools. You really think that Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president of Trinity cares less about economic diversity than Adam Falk? Hah! Trinity is a (much?) poorer school than Williams so it can’t afford as much financial aid.

2) These differences are large and meaningful, even among schools with not-dissimilar endowments and student populations. For example, I would not have predicted that the median Middlebury family was 1/3 richer ($244k versus $186k). I also can’t decide if Wesleyan, one of the poorest schools in NESCAC, has such a lower median income and small percentage from the top 1% because of a serious (and expensive!) commitment to socio-economic diversity or because its reputation as a social justice warrior school makes it less appealing to the wealthy. Comments welcome!

3) One of the main mechanisms, I think, by which schools manage the distribution of median income is via the wait list. The rich schools, like Williams, claim that family income plays no part in who gets off the wait list. (I believe that claim, but sleaziness in the use of the term “low-income” makes me more suspicious than I want to be.) Less rich schools take family income into account, which I bet means that the vast majority of students who get off the wait list require no financial aid.

4) The other mechanism for controlling the income distribution is to squeeze out the upper middle class, especially folks making somewhere between $75,000 and $180,000. These folks aren’t “poor,” and so, according to NESCAC presidents/trustees, don’t really add to socio-economic diversity, but they can be very expensive. Indeed, creating a barbell distribution — lots of super-rich and very poor — is the natural strategy for any school which wants to have the resources needed for a first class education (for which you need families that require no aid) with a commitment to social justice (for which you need poor, and not just “low income,” families). However, I could be wrong about this. Perhaps the entire distributions are shifted?

Williams is, even among elite schools, somewhat extreme in pursuing this barbell approach. We have among the highest percentage of students from both the top 0.1% (2.8%) and from the bottom 20% (5.3%). And, as long as these students have very strong credentials — Academic Rating 1 or, maybe, 2 — I think that this is great thing.

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EOP I

The Equality of Opportunity Project gathers amazing data on the incomes of college graduates and their families. The New York Times provides an overview and this summary (pdf) of Williams data. Day 1 of 5 on this topic.

The entire discussion around socio-economic diversity at elite colleges is about to change, all because of this new data set, produced by Stanford Professor Raj Chetty and colleagues. But, if you have been reading EphBlog for the last 10+ years, little of this will be news to you. From The New York Times:

Students at elite colleges are even richer than experts realized, according to a new study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records.

At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League – Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown – more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent.

The Times should consult better experts. We have always pointed out that Williams, like all elite schools, is a bastion of privilege, that the student body is, and always has been, dominated by the very wealthy. Recall this discussion from two years ago. I get into trouble when I argue that this is largely inevitable — very smart people are both likely to be rich and blessed with smart children, because of both nature and nuture — and not necessarily a problem. See this ten (!) part series from three years ago for background.

The key data can be summarized in one table:

ratio

If you find this surprising, then you haven’t been paying attention. Or you have naively believed some of the drivel from Williams! Recall the news release about early decision for the class of 2021 from December:

[N]early 20 percent of Early Decision admits come from low-income families.

Before reading further, ask yourself, “What is a reasonable definition of the term ‘low-income’ when used in a press release?”

If you are an idiot — or merely one of the “experts” that The Times likes to interview — you probably take this at face value. Why would it be surprising that 20% of Williams students are from low income families? (Yes, I realize that this is just the early decision pool and that the Chetty data does not cover the class of 2021, but those factors don’t matter.) The answer, of course, is that Williams is being about as truthful as Trump’s press secretary when he estimates inauguration attendance. Mary Detloff kindly provided this clarification: at Williams, a “low-income” family is one with less than $85,000 in annual income.

I bet that not a single one of our readers picked a number that high as a fair definition of “low-income.” A much more reasonable definition of low income would be the bottom 20% of the distribution.

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By that measure — which is probably what the vast majority of (naively trusting!) applicants and alumni had in mind when they read the College’s news release — only 5.3% of Williams students are low income, not “nearly 20%.”

I have always known (and shown!) that Williams is a place of privilege, a bastion of the economic elite. And that is OK! The elite have to send their children to college somewhere. My great annoyance has always been the College’s tendency to obfuscate this central reality, to pretend otherwise, to twist the meaning of phrases like “low income” in order to mislead. The EOP data makes those sorts of lies much less tenable. Hooray!

Any commentary on the specific values in that table? Richer colleges like Williams/Amherst/Swarthmore/Pomona have higher percentages from below the 60th percentile, not because the people who run those colleges are any more committed to socio-economic diversity than the people who run other schools, but because their endowments are so large that they can afford the extra-spending on financial aid. You really think that Will Dudley ’89 (new president of Washington and Lee) loves non-rich people less than Adam Falk? Hah! But some of the differences might have interesting explanations. Why would, for example, Swarthmore have less than half as many students from the 1% as Williams?

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Diversity and Equity Forum VI

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 6.

Buell said that the faculty will vote on EDI this year and that the Committee on Educational Affairs, led by Professor David Edwards, is already reassessing EDI. “We will be hoping to make some pretty major changes,” Professor Gail Newman said.

The vision is for EDI to adopt a greater focus on social justice.

The Committee on Educational Affairs is the (somewhat neutered?) successor to the old Committee on Education Policy. Comments:

1) Background: My sense of the politics behind this change is that the Administration found the CEP to be (excessively) independent and hard to control, both because the CEP had student members and because Administration allies were too small a percentage of the votes. So, they split the CEP’s responsibilities between the CEA and the Curricular Planning Committee, which has no student members and is where the real power lies. Informed commentary on this speculation is welcome.

2) It would nice to have some more transparency about this proposed change. Has the College studied how well the current EDI is (or is not) working? Has it surveyed students and/or faculty? Has it compared the results of EDI in practice with the promises made by its proponents? Background reading here, here and here.

3) The evolution of Political Correctness course requirements at Williams would make for an interesting senior essay. First, we had the “Peoples and Cultures” requirement.

The peoples and cultures requirement is designed to ensure that all students graduate with at least some basic understanding of the cultural pluralism of American society and of the world at large.

Now, we have “Exploring Diversity Initiative.” Is that really going to change into a “social justice” requirement of some sort? Or does this seem like another one of EphBlog’s stupid parodies of political correctness run amok? Can you even tell the difference? Without checking, can you be sure that I just didn’t make up that quote in the Record?

4. The best solution is to remove all requirements, other than 4 courses per semester and a major. There is no need to micro-manage student course selection beyond that. Suggestion: Remove the EDI, quantitative and writing requirements for one Williams class, say the class of 2021. This is an easy experiment! Then, examine the choices that those students make. I bet that their choices will be almost indistinguishable from the choices made by current students. And, to the extent there are differences, I bet that those differences would be sensible and would reflect well on those students.

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Diversity and Equity Forum V

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 5.

Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell then shared some statistics regarding the College’s efforts to diversify the faculty. Of last year’s 13 newly hired tenure-track faculty members, nine identify as persons of color, and 10 are women.

Are you a white male interested in a faculty position at an elite college? Your chances are much worse than you think. Williams would much rather higher a woman or a person of color or, ideally, someone who is both.

The Record’s reporting does not really line up with College’s announcements (here and here). Professor Buell kindly provided me with this clarification.

There are actually 15 tenure-track faculty beginning this year (some were hired prior to last year’s hiring season and some folks hired last year have deferred their start dates). Of those 15, 9 identify as people of color and 11 as women. For purposes of institutional reporting, we are now keeping track of the stats for each entering cohort, so this is probably the best information to report out.

During the 15-16 hiring season itself, the college hired 16 faculty members into tenure-track positions. 12/16 identify as faculty members of color and 12/16 identify as women. But what [you] may be citing refers to the results of hiring from national searches. During the 2015-16 academic year, Williams College hired 13 tenure-track faculty into 11 academic departments and programs from national searches. 9/13 identify as persons of color; 10/13 are women. 3 additional tenure-track faculty members were hired through opportunity appointment requests.

Below the break are links for all the new faculty. Comments:

1) The Record could do a fun article comparing the qualifications of the white male hires versus the POC female hires. Even more fun would be interviewing Administration officials about what the comparison should show! The trap is that Williams wants us to believe two contradictory things: first, that the qualifications are the same and, second, that the College gives preferences to POC/female hires. Both can’t be true!

2) No time today for detailed racial bean counting, but it is unclear how Buell gets to 9 POC starting this year. Some googling suggests that this number might include: Chen, Constantine, Ford, Harris, Saint-Just and Tokeshi.

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But what about Eqeiq, Nassif, Singh and Yacoob?

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This is 10 (plausible?) POC, without even trying to figure out if any of the other new faculty and have a grandfather from Spain.

3) As always, the fun is in the details. Should someone with Indian (from India) ancestry be classified as Caucasion or Asian, either according to the US Census (yes) or to Williams College (as long as they check the box)?

4) The most important potential change to these numbers concerns the proposal to include a MENA designation on the next census. This would allow people from the Middle East and North Africa to select a category other than “white.” If this passes, then there would, in an instant, be a much higher percentage of POC faculty at Williams. Or does Williams already count faculty from MENA countries as POC?

5) Since MENA includes Israel, it would not be unreasonable for an American Jew of European descent to check the MENA box since his ancestry derives, ultimately, from the Middle East. The Williams faculty could, in this scenario, be majority POC by 2020!

Read more

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Diversity and Equity Forum IV

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 4.

John Herrera ’17 urged the administration to revise the Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI) requirement.

EphBlog agrees! The EDI is PC nonsense that ought to be abolished. As a reminder:

Williams College is committed to creating and maintaining a curriculum, faculty, and student body that reflects and explores a diverse, globalized world and the multi-cultural character of the United States. Courses designated “(D)” in the College Bulletin are a part of the College’s Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI); they represent our dedication to study groups, cultures, and societies as they interact with, and challenge, each other. Through such courses, students and faculty also consider the multiple approaches that engage these issues. Rather than simply focus on the study of specific peoples, cultures, or regions of the world, in the past or present, however, courses fulfilling the requirement actively promote a self-conscious and critical engagement with diversity. They urge students to consider the operations of difference in the world and provide them with the tools to do so. The ultimate aim of the requirement is to lay the groundwork for a life-long engagement with the diverse cultures, societies, and histories of the United States and the rest of the world.

Should we spend a week on EDI? In the meantime, back to the Record:

He [Herrera] said that EDI classes could be more successful if professors designed courses specifically to focus on diversity.

That is a strange comment. Does Herrera think he knows more about course design than the average Williams professor? I have my doubts! Consider some current classes with the “D” designation like AFR 343: Racial-Sexual Violence with Joy James or AFR 129: 20th Century Black Poets with David Smith. Does Herrera think that these courses are poorly designed, the readings too narrow, or the assignments ill-conceived? Perhaps. If so, he should give us some details!

Herrera suggested that the College increase the requirement from one credit to two and spread EDI classes more evenly across divisions.

Ahhh. Herrera is a Social Justice Warrior, Eph Division. He has no complaints against courses like AFR 343. He wants more such courses and he wants to force more students to take them. What a proper little Leninist!

Think that is too harsh? Perhaps. But what is the appropriate terminology for a student who wants to force other students to take courses they don’t want to take? As Morty Schapiro described it, Williams students have 32 Golden Tickets, just 32 chances — and only 24 if the spend junior year abroad — to study fascinating topics with amazing professors. Every time you force them to take a class that they would not otherwise take — whether because of requirements for EDI, divisional distribution, writing or quantitative reasoning — you steal from them.

One might argue that, for the faculty, this is an obligation. Part of their job is to make students do things — like take 4 courses a semester and major in something — that not all students would willingly do. But for a student like Herrera to argue that his peers are too stupid (or racist?) to willingly select the courses that (he thinks!) they ought to is to display the sort of arrogance that can give (some!) Williams students a bad reputation.

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Diversity and Equity Forum III

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 3.

Matthew Hennessy ’17 then provided an update on the Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History (CSIH). CSIH spent the spring semester of 2016 investigating the history of the Log mural and surveying students about the mural, he said. The committee concluded that the College should keep the mural but add written contextualization.

President Adam Falk praised CSIH for its work and stressed the importance of student engagement with complicated issues. Hennessy said this semester CSIH will continue to look into objects, spaces and names on campus that no longer align with the College’s current institutional beliefs.

1) The CSIH is one of the great wins at Williams in the last year. See our previous coverage here and here. I am still hopeful that readers will want us to spend a week on this topic . . . No takers so far!

2) Can’t we start calling this the “Merrill Committee?” That would be much catchier than CSIH.

3) The CSIH ought to tell us exactly which “objects, spaces and names on campus” they are looking at. Perhaps they are planning another open forum? We have tried (and failed!) to come up with issues that might enrage the student SJW crowd. Perhaps the Haystack Monument?

In the spring of 1806, Samuel J. Mills matriculated at Williams. The son of a Connecticut clergyman, Mills was eager to spread Christianity throughout the world.

One Saturday afternoon in August 1806, Mills and four other students gathered for one of their regularly scheduled prayer meetings. On this particular day, it is said that the skies opened up and the students sought refuge in the shelter of a large haystack. While gathered at the haystack, the students conceived of the idea to found an American missionary movement focused on spreading Christianity worldwide, particularly to the East.

Whoa! I just realized, after writing about Williams for 13 years, that “Mission Park” refers to the religious missions that these white male cisgendered Christians launched 200 years ago. Could be problematic!

Mills House is named after Samuel J. Mills who, after leaving Williams,

engaged in missions in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, in the Southwest United States, and in New Orleans. He influenced the founding of the American Bible Society and the United Foreign Missionary Society before he died in 1818 while returning from a short-term mission trip to Africa with the American Colonization Society.

I suspect that the activities of the American Colonization Society might not meet with the approval of the current Williams faculty . . .

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Diversity and Equity Forum II

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 2.

Wilkinson also asked that counseling services be more available. Students with mental illness often do not know how to access help, she said.

Wilkinson, who is on the Mental Health Committee, added that the College’s geographic isolation makes on-campus psychiatric services the only option for students. The availability of those services, as a result, is essential.

Vice President of Campus Life Steve Klass said that the College has greatly improved its mental health services in recent years and is looking to hire a new director of counseling services in the near future. The College has doubled the number of counselors on staff in the last six years.

“We’re paying attention, and we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.

The Record provided more coverage of his topic yesterday.

This week, Erin Hanson ’18 launched a petition on change.org titled “Williams College: sell 4–5 marble slabs to pay for a new therapist at the Health Center.” In the petition, which is directed at the College administration, Hanson references the multi-million dollar renovation and quad project.

Hanson also quotes the Williams Committee of Transparency and Accountability, a new committee on campus: “There are only eight therapists and one psychiatrist who serve a community of 2200. At least one in five college students … have some kind of mental illness. Even if all eight worked full time, there would not be enough time for all students with need to be served. Furthermore, three of eight are fellows, who [are not licensed, paid less, and on short term contracts]. Of the three people of color on staff, two are fellows. There are few LGBT staff, and no transgender staff.”

1) I am always in favor of moving a dollar from other stuff to student spending. For example, the College ought to close the Children’s Center and spend that money on students.

2) This is clearly a topic that many students feel strongly about. The Record should report more about it. Are there really 9 full time employees working as therapists? How many students are treated? How many total hours of treatment are provided? How does all of this compare to peer schools? Without knowing more facts, it is hard to make an informed judgment.

3) The total number of non-faculty employees at Williams should stay constant. Williams has enough employees. Anyone making the case for more employees in category X should be challenged about which category Y of employees should be cut. The marginal dollar of spending should be devoted to matching the financial aid packages provided to students at Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford, at least for admitted students who are accepted by those schools.

4) Does therapy for Williams students work? I have my doubts! I am ready to believe that hundreds (?) of Williams students today will make use of therapy if it is free and convenient, just as they will make use of free massages and other luxuries. Ten or 20 years ago, only scores (?) of students made use of the (less free? less convenient?) therapy that was available. But what is the causal effect of that therapy?

5) Never forget The Tablecloth Colors! Ainsley O’Connell ’06 warned us a decade ago:

I am frustrated by many of the ways in which the campus has changed, most particularly the sudden prominence of the well-intentioned but detrimental Office of Campus Life [OCL], which is locked in a stagnating cycle of its own design. By in effect naming itself “the decider” when it comes to student life, the campus life office has alienated the College’s best leaders. As a result of this rift, the office has become inwardly-focused, self-promotional and deeply resistant to constructive criticism. Student life is student-driven no longer.

The more therapists the college hires, the less room there is for students who fulfill similar roles. Should Williams replace RASAN, for example, with paid employees? I hope not! But, the more counselors we hire, the more likely that outcome. Back in the day, a melancholy first year would talk to her JA. Do we really prefer a Williams at which this JA is told (required?) to send her student to a paid therapist?

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