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Student Request on Group Performance

This week’s seminar focuses on evaluating the academic performance of groups of Williams students.

A February e-mail from a Williams student:

You probably don’t remember me, but I wrote to you a couple of times last year when I was abroad. I’m now doing a project for my senior seminar in Anthropology and need some information about GPA’s at Williams. In short, I’d like to research the extent to which this ‘wonderfully diverse student body’ performs academically.

Though I’ve heard many second hand stories about black and Hispanic GPA’s being below (1) the Williams average, and (2) even further below the white average (a phenomenon that surfaces in graduate rates, too, apparently), I haven’t been able to find any data on the topic. Do you happen to know if the school releases this kind of information broken down by race?

What should I have told this student?

We ended up having a 30 minute phone conversation. Very fun! What approach do you think I recommended?



I recognize that my past posts on academic performance at Williams have offended people, and I apologize. I realize that I have raised the subject in such a way that does not produce a useful exchange of ideas. Rather, my approach has antagonized readers and has resulted in overly personalized exchanges. I realize that I am responsible for this sad state of affairs.

I am striving for a new beginning. To that end, I am trying to write this post in a way that I hope will generate a civil exchange of ideas.

To begin with, I thought it would be useful if I posed a question and asked readers to offer their own thoughts on this difficult topic. With this in mind, I will do my best to avoid dogmatic assertions and hopefully many readers will be able to provide facts to add to the general knowledge of the subject. So here goes:

Do African-Americans and other minority groups have a disadvantage at Williams because of their background?


Zero African-American Phi Beta Kappa Members in 2010

This week’s seminar focuses on evaluating the academic performance of groups of Williams students.

In a recent thread, Derek (“you then don’t have empirical numbers”), Name-Removed-by-Request (“make up statistics out of thin air”), Rory (“make up numbers”) and others chided me for a lack of data about the racial breakdown of Phi Beta Kappa membership at Williams. Point taken! So, let’s gather some data using the distributed power of the EphBlog readership. There are no African-Americans in Phi Beta Kappa for the class of 2010 at Williams College. See the course catalog (pdf) for the raw data. Start with the Summas:

Bachelor of Arts, Summa Cum Laude
*+Christopher Alan Chudzicki, with highest honors in Physics
*Kristine Grønning Ericson, with highest honors in Art
*Ruth Madeline Ezra, with highest honors in Art
*Cristina M. Florea, with highest honors in History
*Andrew Lawrence Forrest
*Sophie Ariel Glickstein
*Yibai Li
*Zachary Clair Miller, with highest honors in History
*+Ralph Elliott Morrison, with highest honors in Mathematics
*+Kathleen Malone Palmer, with highest honors in Neuroscience

The * indicates membership in Phi Beta Kappa. None of these Ephs are African-American. (Corrections welcome!) See below for the Magnas.

Read more


28% Asian?

UPDATE: Chris Abayasinghe kindly replied to my e-mail and explained that he had been misquoted on WSO. In fact, the 28% figure is for all incoming college students, not just for Williams.

This WSO thread includes an interesting claim, attributed to Chris Abayasinghe, the assistant director of dining service.

Okay, this doesn’t actually have to do with anything that was complained about on this post, but one interesting thing that Chris mentioned was his belief in the cuisine reflecting the student population. By the time the class of ’15 or ’16 will have matriculated, 28% of our student population will be Asian (south, southeast, far east, middle east).


1) Is that true? I don’t know. Informed comments welcome.

2) The 2009-2010 Common Data Set (pdf) tells us:

As we have discussed before, there has been a big jump in Asian American students at Williams. If future classes are as Asian American as the class of 2013 — Does anyone have pointers to 2014 data? — then Williams will soon be 13% Asian American. But 13% is not 28%.

3) What is the breakdown of international students by country of origin? I don’t know. But 31 out of 548 is only 5.7%. Even of all of them came from Asian countries (which is not true), this only gets the total to 19%. Where are the extra 9%?

4) The missing numbers are, presumably, students of Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi or Middle Eastern descent who are not classified by the College (or by themselves) as Asian. These students are placed in the “White, non-Hispanic” category. Yet I would not have guessed that there are anywhere near 50 such students in each class. Also, where does the College keep track of their numbers, if anywhere.

Conclusion: It is highly unlikely that “28% of our student population will be Asian (south, southeast, far east, middle east)” in three years. Or am I missing something?


Faculty Racial/Ethnic/Nationality Breakdowns

From our friend Director of Institutional Research Chris Winter ’95, a breakdown of the Williams faculty bu race/ethnicity/nationality for the 2009-2010 school year.

                    men    women   total 
nonresident alien    3        3       6
black                7        8      15
american indian      0        1       1
asian               11       15      26
hispanic             8        8      16
white              135       76     211
total              164      111     275


1) Thanks as always to Chris for providing us with this data. The more transparent that Williams is, the more likely it will be successful in the future. And, for all our detractors, there is no other place where you can get this 2010-2011 data other than EphBlog. Enjoy!

2) These data are collected annually as a government requirement and reported to IPEDS. I think that IPEDS now has a decent time series of this sort of data. Do we have any IPEDS wizards who would be willing to grab it? (There is a reporting delay, so I think that the latest available data via IPEDS is 2009-2010.).

3) In the past, I have made mischief by trying to figure out just which professors fall into which categories. (The College declines, reasonably enough, to release that data.) See discussions from 2005 and 2007. Too lazy to click those links? Here are the best parts (slightly reworded): Read more


Diversity at Williams Part II

Part II of a video on diversity at Williams featuring senior Virginia Cumberbatch. Interesting discussion midway through about Williams Christian Fellowship and its new journal Telos. Why isn’t it available on-line?


Diversity at Williams Part I

Interesting video featuring Williams senior Virginia Cumberbatch. Comments:

1) Cumberbatch is interested in non-profit work related to race. Other students interested in jobs/careers like this should recognize that it is extremely competitive. Devoting some time at Williams to getting some technical skills (i.e., computer programming and data analysis) will dramatically increase your odds of success.

2) Cumberbatch notes at the end of the video that the 2009 Claiming Williams required students (or maybe just the members of sports teams?) to attend two events. True?


Another Agenda Filled Post about Affirmative Action

Rory suggests that it would be best if our post on Hollander Hall not become “another agenda filled post about affirmative action.” I agree! So, I have moved the relevant comments to this thread.

Your Friday night question: Should Williams count professors from Brazil as “Hispanic/Latino” in reporting its diversity numbers? Why or why not?


Misstated My Position

The latest race-ha-ha at Harvard has a (tenuous) Williams connection.

It was a private dinner conversation among three friends. The topic: affirmative action and race. The debate presumably was passionate, given the divergent opinions of the Harvard Law School students.

Stephanie Grace, a third-year law student, felt she had not made her position clear, so she followed up via e-mail, according to a person with direct knowledge of events.

“I just hate leaving things where I feel I misstated my position,’’ Grace wrote. “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African-Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.’’

The lengthy e-mail, sent to her two dinner companions six months ago, ignited an Internet firestorm this week when it was leaked and first reported Wednesday by the legal blog, followed by other websites.

Yesterday, Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School, condemned the e-mail that suggested blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites.It was a private dinner conversation among three friends. The topic: affirmative action and race. The debate presumably was passionate, given the divergent opinions of the Harvard Law School students.

Stephanie Grace, a third-year law student, felt she had not made her position clear, so she followed up via e-mail, according to a person with direct knowledge of events.

“I just hate leaving things where I feel I misstated my position,’’ Grace wrote. “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African-Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.’’

The lengthy e-mail, sent to her two dinner companions six months ago, ignited an Internet firestorm this week when it was leaked and first reported Wednesday by the legal blog, followed by other websites.

Yesterday, Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School, condemned the e-mail that suggested blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites.

Minow is married to Joseph Singer ’76. Comments:

1) Is there a single Williams student who agrees with Grace that there is a possibility that race differences on IQ tests like the SAT and LSAT are partially caused by genetics? I assume that there must be. What would happen to that student if she raised the topic in conversation? Or a Record op-ed?

2) Wondering what I did during my two month EphBlog vacation? I spent many hours working on the Wikipedia article Race and Intelligence. The article is still a mess but it is much better than it used to be.

3) Imagine that, instead, Grace had written “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that Asian-Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less athletic.” Would that have been more acceptable?


Reverse Racism

Below is a comment from former Williams professor John Drew that I moved from a different thread. The key part:

Given the fact that there are no young, white male Republicans on the staff at Williams College now, I think I’m on very strong grounds to argue that I was among the first of probably many young white male Republicans mistreated by the institution. I don’t think it is wrong to identify this institutional behavior as reverse discrimination or reverse racism – and I use these words very carefully…

Before we look for evidence for and against this claim, I would curious to hear beforehand what facts on either side readers would find relevant. If, right now, you think Drew is wrong (or right), then what new information would cause you to re-evaluate your prior beliefs?


On Race in Selective Higher Education

This post was requested here as a means of hopefully providing some counterbalance to the overwhelming number of words David Kane ’88 has written about his opinion on the persistence of racial inequality in elite education. In sum, these books and articles are intended to be a collection of relatively easily available (I hope) examples of the scholarly research. Where possible, I will include links to publicly available versions of the articles themselves.

While I originally intended for the comment section to be turned off, I will instead keep it on. However, it will not be a place for opinion. Instead, factual questions and additions to the list of scholarly work are welcome. Please keep them to recent work.
Read more


Graduation Rates for Class of 2006

According to the Federal Government:

1) Background reading on graduation rates here. Previous (vaguely) relevant EphBlog posts here and here.

2) The Diversity Initiatives provided a longer time series.

Read more


Williams Reads Selects “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”

Junot_wao_coverFrom the Daily Messages (hat tip to Parent ’12):

Williams Reads Book Selected: Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer-winning novel

Join us this January in reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Developed by the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC), Williams Reads aims to celebrate and deepen our appreciation of diversity through a common reading experience. A calendar of January events will be available soon. from Wendy Raymond, Committee on Diversity and Community

From Wikipedia:

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) is a best-selling novel written by Dominican-American author Junot Díaz. Although a work of fiction, the novel is set in New Jersey where Díaz was raised and deals explicitly with his ancestral homeland’s experience under dictator Rafael Trujillo. It has received numerous positive reviews from critics and went on to win numerous prestigious awards in 2008, such as the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The title is a nod to Hemingway’s short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and to the Irish writer Oscar Wilde.

The novel is an epic story narrated by Yunior de Las Casas and chronicles not just the “brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao,” an overweight Dominican boy growing up in Paterson, New Jersey and obsessed with science fiction and fantasy novels, with comic books and role-playing games and with falling in love, but also the curse of the “fukú” that has plagued Oscar’s family for generations and the Caribbean (and perhaps the entire world) since colonization and slavery.

The middle sections of the novel center on the lives of Oscar’s runaway sister, Lola, his mother, Hypatia Belicia Cabral, and his grandfather, Abelard, under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Rife with footnotes, science fiction and fantasy references, comic book analogies, various Spanish dialects and hip-hop inflected urban English, the novel is also a meditation on story-telling, the Dominican diaspora and identity, masculinity, the contours of authoritarian power and the long horrifying history of slavery in the New World.

Hmmm. I don’t know whether I am going to love this book or hate it. Have any EphBlog folks read it? What did you think? My comments on Williams Reads are the same this year as in the past.

1) I like the idea of Williams Reads, of bringing the larger community together in a shared intellectual event, a Mountain Day for the mind. Who came up with the idea? That Eph deserves some praise.

2) I worry that Williams Reads, instead of being just a shared book event, also tries to be centered around diversity issues. It’s as if the College required that Mountain Day feature a reading of “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” There is nothing wrong with knapsacks, invisible or otherwise, but it would be unhelpful to conflate Mountain Day with political issues.

3) There is nothing wrong with having any given Williams Reads use a diversity-related book. The problem is that, as best I can tell, Williams Reads requires the use of such a book. We have had three Williams Reads, featuring three non-white authors writing about three non-white protagonists. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but the politics are fairly obvious and, in my opinion, off-putting.

The Williams Reads webpage now makes it obvious that this is a diversity event, first and foremost.

Williams Reads aims to foster new connections among students, staff, faculty, and community members by exploring diversity through a common reading experience. Developed by the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC), Williams Reads is an initiative offered each January as an opportunity for us to explore a book together that will help us to celebrate and deepen our appreciation of diversity. It is a goal of the CDC to select a book that will stimulate community engagement and challenging conversation.

A truly “challenging conversation” is probably the last thing that the folks on the CDC are looking for . . .

mad-eye-moodyI thought last year’s discussion on this topic was fruitful. Ben Fleming wrote:

Yeah, but this is pretty ridiculous. You’ve got to be staring pretty hard so see three (3!) non-white authors in a row as “fairly obvious” evidence of anything. Maybe it’s one of those Magic Eye things that I could never get.

Didn’t I tell you? I do have a Magic Eye! That is why I am the Mad Eye Moody of Williams. Want to bet that Williams Reads will choose a non-white author writing about a non-white protagonist next year?

UPDATE: The WSO announcement (posted by Professor Wendy Raymond) makes the goal of Williams Reads fairly clear:

The 2010 Williams Reads Book is Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Developed by the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC), Williams Reads aims to celebrate and deepen our appreciation of diversity through a common reading experience during Winter Study. Think about getting the book at your local public library and reading it during vacation! A calendar of January events will be available soon.

“[C]elebrate and deepen our appreciation of diversity?” Paging George Orwell!

We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul.

Comparing Williams with 1984 is, obviously, over-the-top. But what do you think that Professor Raymond would say to Williams students (or alumni!) who don’t appreciate (her version of) diversity?


Honorary Degree/Commencement Speaker for ’11

From WSO:

Who would you want? I just read that e-mail and thought that if we form some kind of small consensus here on wso, then we can send e-mails to the committee and get someone who we would really like.

1) What e-mail? Please put it in the comments if you have a copy.

2) Has the Honorary Degree committee solicited student opinion in past years? If so, how? If not, why the change? (Kudos either way. The more that student opinion is gathered and listed to, the better.)

3) Suggestions from readers? Obvious choice is soon-to-be Senator Martha Coakley ’75. I am in favor of any alum. I am against (almost) any non-alum.

4) I first raised the issue of the ideological diversity of commencement speakers 6 years ago. The last identifiably Republican/conservative speaker was in 1996. An easy way to break that streak would be to invite Harry Jackson ’75.

5) The racial breakdown of Commencement speakers provided for a rollicking discussion last year, including an apology from me, prompted by Sam Crane and (then) Frosh Mom. During the last nine years, every speaker but one has been either Jewish or African-American. The exception, Morris Dees, was (I think) the most embarrassing.

6) Who can help us improve our knowledge of the history of Commencement Speakers as maintained on Wikipedia? If you remember who spoke in your era, add them.


On Responsibility, Speech and Censorship

(promoted from this discussion)

When Pastor Niemoeller was sent to the concentration camps, we wrote 1937; when the concentration camps were opened, we wrote 1933, and the people who were sent to the concentration camps then, were “Communists.”

Who cared for them? We knew about it– it was printed in the papers. Who raised their voice in response– as the Church of Witness? We thought then: Communists, those opponents of religion, those enemies of Christians.

‘Shall I be my brother’s keeper?’

Then they took the sick, the so-called incurables.

I remember a conversation with a man, who had taken up the Pretension, of being a Christian. He told me: “Perhaps it is the right thing. These unhealable people cost the country money, they are only a burden to themselves and to others. Isn’t it the best for all involved, when one casts them out of the Middle?”

Only then did the Church as such come to the matter. Then we spoke of things in strong tones, until such voices were again cut off and suppressed in public.

Can we say, we were not responsible? Read more


College InSight

College InSight seems like a useful source for college data. It certainly has a much more user-friendly interface that IPEDS.

Here is a cvs table of data that was easy to put together. (Let me know if you can’t view that. I am unfamiliar with sharing Google spreadsheets.) It would be handy if they provided a simple way to download html tables or even provide jpegs images. In the meantime, here is a hack from me. (Click image for larger version.)


Williams comes up with a racial classification for every single students. None of our major peers do the same. Details on that process here. As Director of Institutional Research Chris Winters ’95 notes in that post:

As you can see from the last paragraph the government is clear that use of the “unknown” category is to be considered a last resort and not used as a convenient punt.

At Williams the racial classification begins with the box that is checked by the student on their common application for admission. Most students will self-designate at this point. A small number do not and some will choose multiple boxes. Once students matriculate, the Registrar’s office makes every effort to assign that matriculant to one of the race classifications as defined above. Students are given the final say however, in that the Registrar’s office then contacts every student informing them of the racial assignment they have on file, and explaining the IPEDS requirement for racial assignment, and the official definitions of those race classifications (as above). The student is asked to inform the Registrar if they wish to change the classification to which they have been assigned. In practice, very few students request changes.

Almost every other school but Williams punts. I think that we should start doing the same because it sets the stage for decreasing the emphasis that Williams currently places on race in admissions.


EphBlogger spotted on C-SPAN

Derek Catsam ’93 speaks about the fight to desegregate trains, buses, and other modes of public transportation. The talk is part of a Civil Rights panel discussion that was held during this year’s Virginia Festival of the Book. Professor Catsam’s book on the Freedom Riders is entitled Freedom’s Main Line, and is available from your nearest online bookstore (such as this one or this one).

Link to video of Derek’s talk (opens in a new window).

Longtime readers may remember the Red Sox book Derek mentioned at the very beginning of his talk, Bleeding Red: A Red Sox Fan’s Diary of the 2004 Season, which was based on a series of EphBlog posts. In the words of one SNL cast member, this earlier work by Professor Catsam is “a great way to remember the best year in the history of mankind or any other species.”


Most Diverse

Director of Admissions Dick Nesbitt ’74 writes to the New York Times. (Hat tip to Jeff.)

To the Editor:

“Applications to Elite Colleges Are Up This Year, Despite the Economic Downturn” (news article, March 30) mentions this year’s decline in the number of applications to Williams College and suggests possible explanations related to the economy.

Here are some relevant facts. Last year, the number of applicants to Williams spiked by 17 percent. We decided to add a Williams-specific essay to the common application to better determine who among our applicants would benefit most from a Williams education.

We ended up this year with not only the third-largest applicant pool in our history, but also, and more important, our most talented and diverse. We are therefore more excited than ever about the applicants we admitted this week.

Richard Nesbitt
Director of Admission
Williams College
Williamstown, Mass., March 30, 2009

1) Background and discussion of the Williams-specific essay here.

2) What is the metric by which Williams measures how “diverse” the applicant pool is? I suspect that, in this context, it means “percentage of non-white applicants.” Is that a very useful measure? I have my doubts.

3) New readers may enjoy this post from three years ago. If no one around you perceives you as African-American (or Hispanic), how much diversity do you really bring to Williams?



One of the rituals I especially enjoy at Williams is the performance of “Voices” during first days. The freshman class files into the ’62 Center’s Mainstage after their first entry dinner, and a few Williams students stand before the new freshman to declare their story, followed by a common end:

“I go to Williams.”

My freshman year, I remember seeing the Voices presentation. The details of who said what are a little fuzzy after two years, but the program absolutely succeeded in presenting a simple idea: that the experience of Williams’s students is broad, and that labels and stereotypes are often ignorant and foolish. Or, in other words, diversity education, though the word “diversity” isn’t mentioned in the presentation.

This year, I returned to First Days as a part of a different group, but like a few other upperclassmen, wanted to see this year’s program. The performers had labels: they were prep schoolers, poor, African-American, “extremely white,” foreign, goat-herders, victims of foreclosure, Southern Californians, townies, witnesses of domestic abuse, exceptions to stereotypical rules, nomads. Yet their stories were much deeper than those labels convey; in fact, there was no comparison between the stereotypes of above and the complexity of the people on that stage. It’s not that barriers are broken, but rather that they are shown to have never really existed, except in the hive-mind of society.

Williams still struggles with stereotypes and judgments – I still vividly remember the first time I learned about the wealth of one of my friend’s family, and was suddenly forced to confront the stereotypes I had about the super-wealthy. Voices doesn’t purify us, and it doesn’t seek to. It simply shows the freshmen that their world has suddenly expanded, but that the people from “out there” have the same human experience of the familiar. Or something like that…

I won’t be surprised if, within the next few days, I witness someone do something strange or funny. Their excuse will be drawn from last night’s performance, and it will justify whatever they did that wasn’t expected:

“I go to Williams.”


Who us?

   Former Williams proffessor Marc Lynch makes the following observation (in the below post) when confronted with the shunning of military Veterans by Americas academic elite. 

I’ve had a few soldiers interested in pursuing degrees ask me nervously whether they would be shunned by academics. I would be shocked if any experienced prejudice or bias because of their war service — certainly not at a place like GWU — and would be appalled if they did.

Sir yes sir. As mentioned by JeffZ, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is the reason given for banning all military activity on many college campuses. A ban of active members of the veterans community from even existing on campus because of a government policy.

 Who else should we ban? Not the Taliban, just Marines?

 “We don’t dislike veterans; we just ban ROTC because of a policy.”

 “I am not prejudice against service members; I just cannot study near anyone wearing a military uniform, because of a policy.”

 “I think Military service is a legitimate profession, I just do not want any recruiting for it done on my property.”

   It is very thinly veiled- where these schools biases and prejudices lie. No doubt, it could be damn uncomfortable for veterans to go to a college where recruiting and involvement in such service is strictly prohibited and protested. Colleges should lift all bans on ROTC now. Such discrimination should no longer be tolerated. Support our military. Fill it full of the best educated minds in the nation.

Update: Link to an article on the History of the ROTC and Military Ban At Harvard University. “Is Harvard smart enough to listen to its students?”

From the Article:

And yet, as a 20-year-old Harvard sophomore from Bay City, Texas, named Mark Alan Isaacson told me this week: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a policy of the federal government, not just the Pentagon, and it was signed by President Clinton. But Harvard doesn’t seem to have any trouble taking money from the federal government, and Clinton is certainly welcome any time he comes on campus. So why can’t midshipmen and cadets who want to serve their country–and didn’t have anything to do with this policy–be welcomed here, too?”

As David always says “Indeed.” It is important to note, that a lot of these bans took place during the Vietnam war, and had nothing to do with “Don’t ask don’t tell”.


Diversity at Williams

A regular but anonymous commentator at College Confidential writes:

Diversity at Williams

I’m interested in learning students’ and alumna’s opinions concerning inclusivity at Williams. Let me be clear, by ‘inclusivity’ I am referring to the degree to which different racial and socioeconomic groups actually meaningfully interact, not statistical diversity. This thread is intended to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive. Personal biases tend to detract, rather than add, to constructive discourse.

I’ll begin.

As a minority male upperclassman, I have had the privilege of experiencing firsthand social interactions between different “groups” of students at Williams. The central issue surrounding inclusivity (or lack thereof) at Williams, I believe, is the disparity between different racial and socioeconomic sections of the student population. Williams, like other elite institutions of higher learning, has lost its racial homogeneity in the decades following educational integration and the inception of affirmative action policies. Unlike other institutions, however, Williams’ undergraduate student body numbers a mere 2,000. The result is carefully partitioned groups of students that share little in common.

Simply put, Williams lacks a large enough “middle section” of middle class ($50,000 and below) students that, despite racial differences, possess commonalities that create the ‘glue’ that allows students to feel comfortable enough to pursue intimate social interactions. The tendency at Williams is to avoid that which might expose one to social criticism, with the result being a social chasm between different social groups.

When I visit the campus of my local state university (an institution with an undergraduate population numbering 15,000) , I do not feel that such a chasm exists. While there are certainly instances of extreme intolerance (this same campus was the site of a nationally covered racial incident 2 years ago), such incidents reflect the views of individuals rather than those of wide cross-sections of the student body.

But, let’s dig a bit deeper. With regard to such sensitive issues as inter-racial relationships, views on affirmative action, etc., the chasm that divides the student population at Williams widens. When I go on walks with white female friends at Williams, I see and feel the “unsureness” of passersby that creates a palpable tension. In addition, the sexual exotification of black males in particular, leads me to believe that some Williams students carry deep-seated misperceptions of who, and how, a minority student is, and should, behave.

After the racial incident my freshman year, in which a racial slur was sprayed across an entry door, there was a decided gulf in the reaction of the student body that produced a split between those who advocated for a social honor code, and those who went as far as to advocate against it. As the rallying cry was “Stand With Us!”, a small cadre of students responded with the corollary “Or Against Us?”, indicating that one did not have to voice one’s opposition to intolerance to be ‘against’ intolerance. To me, this indicates a degree of complicity with regard to the specific incident that mirrors social attitudes at Williams – not only does no one seem to care about the divide between race and class that exists here, but no one condemns it, as well.

So, that’s my perspective. Yours?

I would be interested to read what current students and recent graduates think about this. Read the posts in our Willy E. N-word category for some background. My thoughts later.


Racial/Gender Breakdown

Thanks to Director of Institutional Research Chris Winters ’95, here is the racial/gender breakdown of Williams for the fall of 2008.

                           First Year    Total
                              M/F         M/F
Nonresident alien            31/15       88/56
Black                        21/35       77/117
Native American               0/4         2/9
Asian                        28/36       100/122
Hispanic                     23/30        88/97
White                       152/164      635/592

Total                       255/284      990/993

Chris notes that this data has already been reported to IPEDS and should appear there sometime this fall. Comments:

1) Many of these patterns are common among elite colleges. There are many more Black females than males and a similar, although less striking, imbalance among Hispanics and Native Americans. The standard explanation for this effect is that female URMs on average have much stronger high school academic records than make URMs. So, it its attempts to get enough URMs while simultaneously maximizing a student’s chances of success at Williams, the College has no choice but to put up with a gender imbalance. Isn’t that the standard story?

2) Why the gender imbalance among Asians? Obviously, a single year tells us little, but I did not expect to see this. A random effect? True for other elite colleges? Caused by differential rates of classifications. (See more below.) For example, are bi-racial Asian-American females more likely to identify as as Asian-American? I am stumped. UPDATE: See below.

3) As hwc has noted in the past, it is very hard to get data out of IPEDS. Looking at trends over time, both at Williams and its peer group, would be an interesting exercise.

4) The biggest difference between Williams data and that from similar schools is that Williams somehow manages to assign a single ethnic/racial category to every single student. Chris provided the exact details of the process 2 years ago. See that post for all sorts of interesting discussion as well as fun ideas for trouble-making. Summary: Williams tries very hard to classify students and gives them a chance to “opt-out.” None (not a single one?) do. Other schools report very different results. More than 20% of the students at Amherst (pdf) are classified as “Race/ethnicity unknown.” I believe that, if those students were at Williams, they would be classified as white. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

5) All these numbers are somewhat skewed because they ignore students studying abroad and those students are more likely to be female.

UPDATE: hwc kindly provided this graphic.


I second his analysis:

One thing that may be happening here is that engineering and tech oriented schools (at least the elite schools) are considerably more Asian American than their all-purpose equivalents. These schools also tilt heavily male. So, it could be that male Asian Americans tend to mass at these tech-oriented schools, leaving the equivalent all-purpose schools more heavily female in the Asian American cohort. This is logical and echoes the overall gender trends.


Geminis Only

Assume that you are a bad person and you want Williams student to self-segregate by astrological sign. You want all the, say, Geminis, to hang out together, take the same classes, form Gemini-only rooming groups and so on. This is hard to do because Williams students don’t like to be bossed around.

Solution: Invite all the Gemini members of the class of 2013 to five weeks of special Gemini-only activities at Williams this summer. Do not invite non-Geminis.

The natural result is that these Geminis, who may have had nothing in common besides their astrological sign, will bond. Cliques form, friendships grow and romance blooms. These Geminis will grow to like and trust each other. When school starts in September, they will already have made friends with each other. They will continue to seek each other out, share meals with each other, perhaps take classes together. It won’t be that they have anything against their non-Gemini entrymates who they are meeting for the first time. It is just that they will have already found friends to hang out with.

But the College, you say, would never do anything like that! Think again:

Incoming first-years from underrepresented minority groups spend five weeks in June and July at the Williams College Summer Science and Williams College Summer Humanities and Social Sciences programs. Assisted by current students, the participants take classes that emphasize the development of writing, study, and oral skills.

Say what you will about these programs, but there is no doubt that they increase the amount of student self-segregation at Williams. Are the benefits worth the costs? Perhaps. Yet the first step is always to provide an accurate estimate of the costs and benefits.

Further comments below:
Read more


Obama Complains About Eph Arrest, contd.

Discussion continued here. On-topic comments have been moved here from the other thread. Please play nice.

APTOPIX Harvard Scholar Disorderly

President Barack Obama said that Cambridge police officer Sgt. James Crowley “acted stupidly” when he arrested Harvard Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., a Williams honorary degree recipient, for disorderly conduct.

How’s that for the best start to an EphBlog post this year? As PTC notes, the case has race, class, town-gown and US politics all rolled up into a tight little ball of wonderfulness. More below.
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One Kenyan’s Perspective

Binyavanga Wainaina is (or was?) a visiting professor of Africana studies at Williams College. NPR’s Speaking of Faith program recently did an hourlong program featuring Wainaina on the ethics of aid. You can listen to the broadcast program, or the full unedited interview, and follow the program notes which contain additional sources and charts.

Wainaina is “is among a rising generation of African voices who bring a cautionary perspective to the morality and efficacy behind many Western initiatives to abolish poverty and speed development in Africa.” He is worth both listening to and reading. Here is his acerbic, satirical style on display in a 2005 article, “How to Write About Africa“:

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

Broad brushstrokes throughout are good. Avoid having the African characters laugh, or struggle to educate their kids, or just make do in mundane circumstances. Have them illuminate something about Europe or America in Africa. African characters should be colourful, exotic, larger than life — but empty inside, with no dialogue, no conflicts or resolutions in their stories, no depth or quirks to confuse the cause.

Describe, in detail, naked breasts (young, old, conservative, recently raped, big, small) or mutilated genitals, or enhanced genitals. Or any kind of genitals. And dead bodies. Or, better, naked dead bodies. And especially rotting naked dead bodies. Remember, any work you submit in which people look filthy and miserable will be referred to as the ‘real Africa,’ and you want that on your dust jacket. Do not feel queasy about this: you are trying to help them to get aid from the West. The biggest taboo in writing about Africa is to describe or show dead or suffering white people.


Courses That I Wish Had Been Offered When I Was At Williams, Pt. 1


[Jeff Thaler] recently created and directed a program for Williams College students entitled “Resettling Refugees in Maine”. The program brings Williams College students to Maine and introduces them to Maine’s new immigrant communities through an experiential three week course which requires that the students have a home stay experience with a refugee or immigrant family. The course first ran in January of 2008 and is scheduled to run again in January 2009.

You’re welcome to carp abow how this SHOULD BE CUT, and IMMEDIATELY, because of the STOCK MARKET and the ECONOMY, and we have NO MORE MONEY, ANYWHERE!!! in the comments thread below.


Video of Congressional Black Caucus at Williams


Source link (a tip o’ the hat to commenter Parent ’12 for the link) Facebooktwitter

Breaking the Code

This interpretation of Obama’s recent speech (watch), by Chris Caldwell writing in the FT, presents an excellent analysis of the way I saw issues of race treated during my time at Williams College, and precisely highlights the problem with elite, liberal, mostly-white institutions like our college embracing ‘sensitivity’ at the cost of communication – especially around the time of our annually scheduled Racial Controversy. It is the most damning indictment I have seen of political correctness.

Full article after the jump. Read more


Nose Counting

Interesting Record article entitled “Faculty diversity increases, remains College priority.”

While the student body becomes more diverse with each year, increasing faculty diversity remains a priority and a challenge for the College as it struggles to find and attract eligible candidates.

Is “eligible” the adjective to use in this case? Also, it sure would be nice if writer Sasha Zheng made it clear that the Asian American portion of diversity is not really an issue. We continue to seek details on how the College classifies students by race. The article continues:

In 2007, persons of color made up 18 percent of the faculty. This number included 24 professors of Asian heritage, 10 black professors and 16 Latino/a professors. Statistics from 2006 showed that 97 out of 252 faculty members were female, a total of 38 percent. There were no faculty members identified of American Indian heritage.

We love nose counting at EphBlog! Comments:

1) 16 Hispanics? When last we considered this topic, the College claimed 14 Hispanics. Who are the new Hispanic faculty? With help from our readers, we (tried to) identify those 14 faculty members two years ago.

Gene Bell-Villada (Romance Languages)
Maria Elena Cepeda (Latino Studies)
Ondine Chavoya (Studio Art)
Joe Cruz (Philosophy and Cognitive Science)
Antonia Foias (Anthropology)
Soledad Fox (Romance Languages)
Berta Jottar (Theater)
Manuel Morales (Biology)
Enrique Peacocke-Lopez (Chemistry)
Ileana Perez Vasquez (Music)
Merida Rua (American Studies and Latino Studies)
Cesar Silva (Math)
Armando Vargas (Comparative Literature)
Carmen Whalen (Latino Studies)

I think that all these faculty members are still at Williams.

2) Asian (Americans?) make up about 10% of the Williams faculty. Asian-Americans make up 10% of the student body. Both percentages are about twice that of the American population at large. So what is the problem? Does Williams need more Asian faculty? Should the office of the Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity be devoting time and energy to bringing more Asian faculty to Williams? Why? Worrying about the number of Asian faculty is like worrying about the number of Jewish faculty. There is no problem.

3) There are 10 black professors at Williams. Hmmm. Who? I come up with:

Layla Ali ’91 (Studio Art)
Ernest Brown (Music)
Gretchen Long (History)
David Smith (English)
Joy James (Political Science)
Kenda Mutongi (History)
Kaye Husbands Fealing (Economics)
Alex Willingham (Political Science)
Ngonidzashe Munemo (Political Science)

But nine is not ten. (And I am not even sure that all these faculty are African American.) Who are we missing? (Does the College count athletic faculty in this number? It had better not!) Please help us readers. The great fun in the College’s constant search for diversity is always in the details of how the process works, or fails to.

More on this interesting article later.

And, just for fun, here is a trivia question to try out with Professor Wendy Raymond who is now spending less time teaching and more time quota enforcing. When was the last time that a African-American professor was tenured/tenure-track in a Division III department at Williams?

Great background reading on faculty diversity at Williams from KC Johnson here.


Ephs on Watson

The Record had an excellent article two years ago on the reaction of faculty members to remarks on female intelligence by then-Harvard President Larry Summers. More on the substance of that debate another day. Normally, the Record should focus on news from Williams, but by surveying faculty members on their views about a controversial issue of the day, especially faculty members with some relevant expertise, the Record was doing exactly what a good college newspaper should do. Kudos!

Nobel Prize-winner James Watson‘s recent remarks on race and intelligence provide an occasion for another such article. The Record should seek reaction from faculty members in just the manner that Matthew Simonson did two years ago. Which faculty members should be interviewed? EphBlog readers should make suggestions in the comments.

Required background reading here.

UPDATE: Pace Rory’s comment below, the reason that the above link is “required reading” for a Record reporter working on this story is because most Williams professors will disparage Watson’s viewpoint. So, the reporter needs the best defense of that viewpoint in advance. That link is the best that I have seen, Readers are welcome to propose better links, either pro- or anti-Watson. The more diverse our links, the better.

My two favorite recent such links are here and here. Highly recommended. Naive readers might consider these (implicit) refutations of Watson and people like him, but I am not so sure.


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