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Uncomfortable Posting

Greetings. I’m the faculty president of the Williams’ chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society. As there has been a lot of discussion about speakers invited to campus by Uncomfortable Learning, I wanted to briefly post why PBK has decided to co-sponsor their next speakers.

PBK is dedicated to the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression. We do not necessarily support the views and opinions of the speakers, but we strongly support the calls made by President Falk,  William McGuire III ’17 and others on the importance and value of having civil discussions. There is a great opportunity in such debate, and we encourage all interested members of the community to come to these and other events and be heard. Many of the positions held by students and faculty on our campus today would not have found receptive audiences in the earlier days of Williams; ideas should be refuted by facts, not silenced.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
                     Because I was not a Socialist.

                     Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
                     Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

                     Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out 
                     Because I was not a Jew.

                    Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for
                    me. — Martin Niemoller

Steven Miller (sjm1@williams.edu), Associate Professor of Mathematics

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Julian Bond at Williams

2005 Commencement (Source: Williams College Archives)

2005 Commencement (Source: Williams College Archives)

Civil rights giant Julian Bond passed away last week at the age of 75. Co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, enactment of the Civil Rights Act enabled Bond to be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives — which refused to seat him. Bond took the legal fight over his election to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor 9-0, and Bond remained in the Georgia Legislature for the next two decades. A civil, calm, and eloquent face of the civil rights movement, he later became a professor at the University of Virginia and chairman of the NAACP, a post which he held for a decade.

During his career, Bond wasa repeat visitor to Williams. In April, 1969, he came to Williams to advocate “Community Socialism,” speaking in Thompson Chapel to a standing-room crowd. Later, he returned as an Arnold Bernhard ’25 visiting professor in 1992, a keynote speaker for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2000, and the Baccalaureate Speaker in 2005.

According to the April 15, 1969 Williams Record (pdf) Bond’s 1969 speech focused on his rejection of capitalism:

“Income for the many instead of profits for the few” should be the rationale of economic reform. Bond told the standing-room-only Chapel audience. He stated he was strongly opposed to the principle of single ownership. President Nixon’s
call for Black Capitalism, now termed Minority Entrepeneurshlp, would force the Black
poor “to adopt an economic systsm which hasn’t even worked for the whites,” Bond said. Unfortunately, a policy of “wholesome lives for many rather than profits for few” would not get a politician far in this country today,” Bond stated…

At present, “America’s Black poor constitute a colony within the larger white nation,” Bond continued. In this system of colonialization the mother country steals from the blacks and gives nothing in return, he said.

Bond, as pictured in the Williams Record, 1969

Bond, as pictured in the Williams Record, 1969

In his 2000 address, Bond began, as he often did, with the story of his grandfather’s rise from slavery to valedictory speaker, and then with the history of the NAACP, before moving into a strident condemnation of modern-day American society as racist and a demand for equality of outcome. Here’s an excerpt from the Record’s coverage :

After Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government Emeritus James MacGregor Burns ’39 introduced Bond as a “healer” and unifier of the civil rights movement, Bond began his lecture by asking, “How do we speak about race in America without making people uncomfortable?” Race issues, he said, make people uncomfortable, but they must be discussed in spite of this.

Bond noted that only his father’s generation separates him from slavery. His grandfather was born in 1863 in Kentucky. At age 15, he walked across Kentucky to Berea College. Fifteen years later he graduated and gave the commencement address. Bond said his grandfather demonstrated the attitude that will change race relationships in America.

He berated those who want to replace race-based affirmative action with economic based affirmative action. “As long as race counts in America, we have to count race,” Bond argued.

He disparaged the failure of many cities to compile statistics on race motivated crimes, noting that without data, “there is no discrimination.”

The end of “American apartheid” in the 1960s has made it too easy to believe discrimination has disappeared when, in reality, Bond said, it has not. Polls have shown that inequalities still exist in educational opportunities and rates of success for minorities in America.

According to Bond, “race is a central fact of life for all non-white Americans.” He warned the audience about a “dangerous nostalgic narrative” in recent movies and books that eliminate civil rights violations and racial complexities from their portrayal of the past.

Bond’s 2005 Baccalaureate address began in the same place, with the story of his grandfather and the history of the NAACP. But it ended far more optimistically:

Most of those who made the movement were not famous; they were faceless. They were not notable; they were nameless – marchers with tired feet, protestors beaten back by fire hoses and billy clubs, unknown women and men who risked job and home and life.

As we will honor you graduates tomorrow for what you have achieved, so should you honor them for what they achieved for you.

They helped you learn how to be free.

They gave you the freedom to enter the larger world protected from its worst abuses.

If you are black or female, their struggles prevent your race or gender from being the arbitrary handicap today it was then.

If you belong to an ethnic minority or if you are disabled, your ethnicity or disability cannot be used to discriminate against you now as it was then.

If you are Christian or Jewish or Muslim, your faith cannot be an impediment to your success. As you grow older, because of what they did then, you will be able to work as long as you are able. Your job – your responsibility – is to make these protections more secure, to expand then for your generation and for those who will soon follow you.

Wherever you may go from here, if there are hungry minds or hungry bodies nearby, you can feed them. If there are precincts of the powerless poor nearby, you can organize them. If there is racial or ethnic injustice, you can attack and destroy it.

The choice is yours.

Not every choice you make will be momentous. But in order to be ready for the momentous, you need to be guided by moral principles in the mundane.

Don’t let the din of the dollar deafen you to the quiet desperation of the dispossessed. Don’t let the glare of greed blind you to the many in need.

You must place interest in principle above interest on principal.

An early attempt at ending illiteracy in the South developed a slogan – “Each One Teach One” until all could read.

Perhaps your slogan could be “Each One Reach One.”

As you go forward, remember these final lines from James Russell Lowell’s poem:

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong.
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong.
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And beyond the dim unknown
Stands God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own.

May He watch over you.

I don’t have any information about his stint as a visiting professor, so if there are any readers with recollections, please share.

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Williams Stands Up Archive

Before they disappear down the memory hole, I wanted to archive these three documents from the Williams Speaks Up archives:

View incident reports from three different sources:

* The Record
* Campus Safety and Security (PDF)
* The Multicultural Center Timeline (PDF)

I have been meaning to provide a thorough Fisking for several years, but there is never enough day in the blog. Standard example:

Williams humor magazine, The Mad Cow, distributed an all campus leaflet on the “Goth Studies Initiative,” which poked fun at the Latino Studies Initiative. This disturbed many students who had been ardently working toward the creation of a Latino Studies program (MCC Annual Report 2000-2001).

1) Are the MCC Annual Reports on-line? I bet that they would make for interesting reading.

2) Don’t the writers at Mad Cow know that making fun of minority students/causes is verboten! Time for some re-education . . .

3) Now that Williams is eliminating the position of MCC Coordinator, who will be keeping track of these “incidents?”

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Black/Asian SAT Scores at Elite LACs

1) This graph uses data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF). This data seems to be easily available to academics, so readers are encouraged to replicate my analysis themselves. Please let us know if you do so. Rory: Does this graph look correct to you?

2) NLSF does not allow users to indicate which data come from which school. So, for example, I am not allowed to report that the average SAT score for Asian-Americans at Williams is X. I can only report the results in groups like “elite liberal arts colleges,” as I have done here.

3) To select my sample, I use “la0102 <= 10″. This restricts the observations to students who attended a liberal arts college ranked in the top 10 by US News in 2001-2002.

4) Within this universe, I look at students marked as “A” (Asian) or “B” (Black/African-American) by NLSF. There are 66 such students in the sample from elite liberal arts colleges: 35 Asian and 31 Black. This is, obviously, not a very large sample and only includes data from two schools. There is reason to believe, based on what I have read elsewhere, that these results are not entirely an artifact of small sample size, but this data alone doesn’t show that.

5) 7 A students and 10 B students are missing SAT scores. For 3 As and 5 Bs, I am able to impute their SAT scores using their ACT results. But removing those observations does not matter to the overall distributions.

6) With the imputed scores, we have a final sample of 31 Asian-American and 26 African-American students. Their SAT scores are used to create the plot.

7) The middle 90% of the distributions do not overlap. The kernel smoothing method I use obscures that fact a bit. In other words, if you delete the three highest B scores (1400, 1420 and 1460) and the three lowest A scores (1200, 1340 and 1350), there is no overlap between Black and Asian SAT scores at places like Williams.

8) Poking around the NLSF for other schools, it seems like the A/B gap of around 250 points is larger in elite liberal arts colleges than anywhere else.

Among elite universities (say, top 10 in US News), the gap is about 100 points smaller because African-American (and Hispanic) students have significantly higher scores. This is consistent with what I have heard elsewhere. Places like Williams lose many/most/all of the African-American (and Hispanic) students they most want to larger universities. If you want to attend college at a place where SAT scores for Asians and African-Americans are only (?) 150 points different, don’t go to an elite liberal arts college like Williams.

Why is it that – for the most part – the highest scoring African-American high school students have such a strong aversion for the elite liberal arts schools (or such a strong preference for the research universities)? Is is principally a name recognition factor? But why would that effect be different for African American students as compared to white students?

Do we have any readers who work with NLSF data? Tell us what you think!

Special thanks to Rory for pointing out the existence of the NLSF and encouraging/shaming me into taking a careful look at it.

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Zero African-American Phi Beta Kappa Members in 2009

I recently observed that, as far as I can tell, none of the students in the 2009 Phi Beta Kappa (pdf) are African American. My methodology is certainly not flawless (based essentially on talking to students in the class of 2009), and it’s possible that a few of these students are African American.

(Previous post about the same results for the class of 2010 here).

I am genuinely interested in why African Americans at Williams appear (at least for two years) to be underrepresented in Phi Beta Kappa. Is it random chance? Academic and extra-curricular choices made by African-American students? Other factors? Does anyone have any thoughts on the relative weights of these factors?

Or is this something that we should never publicly discuss?

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“Always tough to know if”: Redux and a side bar to the post above this …

Ed Note. It has been some time since 7 February, 2004. Yet this post, “Always tough to know if”, from that date shows up with a current comment yesterday and another comment follows adding further detail to this inspiring story. Lucy Terry Prince: what an interesting sidebar extension to the discussion above, perhaps suggesting that the ability to perform is not the issue.

Always tough to know if stuff on the web is reliable or not, but this article caught my eye.

I would like to introduce you to the first Black in America to compose a poem. No, not Phyllis Wheatley, but rather her name is Lucy Terry Prince. She could not read or write, but in 1746, she composed the poem, “Bars Fight.” This poem was verbally passed down until it was published in 1855. Although Lucy Terry Prince was not a literary genius her contribution to Black history is unquestioned.

Lucy Terry Prince was an eloquent speaker. She argued to get her son Festus, into Williams College. This, “illiterate” former slave debated in front of the hyper-educated board of trustees to the college. Although unsuccessful, she later was successful in arguing a property dispute before the U.S. Circuit Court in 1796.

I had never heard this story before. If true, it would make for a great senior thesis. It would be especially interesting to know where the descendants of Festus Prince are today.

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‘Moskau’ ha, ha ha ha, ha ha ha: on the bells at Thompson …

A few days ago, according to a thankyou note on WSO, the campus was filled with Moskau the German pop hit from the ’80’s by Dschinghis Khan, that cross between ABBA and the Village People. Disco from the tower of Thompson!

Hats off to Will Slack and The Guild of Carilloneurs for asserting despite evidence to the contrary that Disco is Not Dead!

Moscow, Moscow, throw your glasses at the wall
And good fortune to us all,
A ha ha ha ha – ha!
Moscow, Moscow, join us for a kazadchok
We’ll go dancing round the clock
A ha ha ha ha – hey!
(What did I ever do with my vest…)

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African-American Enrollment Declines by 1/3 at Swarthmore

An interesting comment from hwc:

Swarthmore is reporting their fall 2010 enrollment both ways: the new for 2010 federal mandated way with the multi-racial category and (on a page 2 of the PDF), the old-style reporting methods for historical comparison. By clicking back and forth between Page 1 and Page 2 of the PDF, you can compare the numbers for Fall 2010 enrollment under the two reporting systems.

I haven’t digested exactly what these changes mean, but I know that it is basically going to end my spreadsheet and chart of diversity with data going back 40 years. Thanks, Uncle Sam.

———

Right off the bat, I can see that the new federal reporting rules will increase the apparent “Hispanic” enrollment as “Hispanic” must be reported regardless of the race. The reported “Hispanic” enrollment at Swarthmore actually increased with the new reporting mandates.

With the reporting of 86 “multi-racial” students, the reported enrollment of Asian American and “black” students fell sharply under the new reporting rules. With what is likely to be a sharp decline in reported African American enrollment in US higher education under the new rules, I wouldn’t be surprised if the racial victimization lobby makes some loud noise over these new rules. With the stroke of a Washington bureaucrat’s pen, Swarthmore just went from 9.6% African American enrollment to 6.4%, purely from reporting the same student body under the new federal rules.

1) I hope that Williams, like Swarthmore, will report the data both ways for at least this year. I would expect that we will see similar drops in Asian-American and African-American enrollment at Williams.

2) Recall previous discussions on the topic of racial backgrounds. In the past, Swarthmore and Williams have treated someone with 4 African-American grandparents the same as someone with 1 African-American grandparent and 3 white grandparents. As long as they checked the “African-American” box on the Common Application, they were black.

But the new scheme makes that much more difficult. I would bet — commentary from people with expertise in the literature welcome! — that the applicant with four black grandparents is highly unlikely to check the new “mixed race” box while the applicant with just one black grandparent is much more likely to do so. What happens? At Swarthmore, the number of African-American freshmen goes from 43 to 22. Wow! Does this mean that half the 43 African-American freshmen at Swarthmore have one non-African-American parent?

3) Could the 1/3 total drop in African-American enrollment that hwc highlighted be a underestimate of the final effect? I find it interesting that the drop is almost 50% in the freshmen class. Swarthmore probably finds it much harder to figure out which seniors would classify themselves as mixed race. Or perhaps seniors responded less often to whatever new surveys Swarthmore has done. If future classes are like this year’s freshmen class, Swarthmore will report a drop of 50% in African-American enrollment.

4) What does that say for the future of measures of diversity at elite schools? Hard to say. Currently, diversity is measured by adding up all the students who checked any non-White box, including Hispanic but not including “Race/ethnicity unknown / Other.” (Everyone assumes that these are overwhelmingly white students.) That is the metric that Dick Nesbitt uses when he describes the current Williams class as being our most diverse ever. But that metric becomes much more problematic with the new classification scheme. Consider:

a) How do you avoid double-counting? Swarthmore presents numbers for “Hispanic, of any race” and the individual racial groups but no information on the overlaps. These 175 Hispanic students could all be white, in which case a measure of total diversity would just add them to the numbers for African-American, Asian and so on. Or many/most of them could also be racial minorities, in which case we can’t just add them without double-counting. (Thanks to Rory for pointing out my mistake in his comment below.)

b) How do you handle “Two or more Races?” On the one hand, these should clearly be included in any diversity measure because many students with African-American heritage check this box, as the Swarthmore data shows. On the other hand, this box becomes an easy one to check for students who are, for all practical purposes, white but hope to get a bit of an admissions edge. (Useful discussion here.)

I predict that we will see a dramatic increase in the number of students checking the “Two or more Races” box. Think of the incentives. Colleges will get to count these students in any plausible measure of diversity, so they want to get as many of these students as possible. Students will feel much more comfortable “stretching” to check this box than they felt doing the same for just “African-American.” There are also an ever increasing number of applicants of Asian-white mixed parentage who suspect, probably correctly, that checking this box is much better than checking either White or Asian.

What do you predict will happen?

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Faculty/Student Racial Classification

Like all academic institutions, Williams is currently reclassifying the race/ethnicity of its students, faculty and staff. I can’t find any good Williams links on the topic, but here (pdf) is background from Harvard and an overview from the Feds. Highlight is that Ephs will now be able to (easily) classify themselves as belonging to multiple racial groups. Previous posts on this topic here and here. Comments:

1) I am still hazy on the exact mechanism by which Williams manages to provide a racial classification for every student. Background reading here. If I were Williams, I would move toward the approach that Amherst and other elite schools use, allowing for students to refuse to classify themselves. (Amherst classifies 360 students as “Race/ethnicity unknown.” Williams has zero students in that category. Which report do you believe?)

2) The 2009 Common Data Set for Amherst (in what I think is a new addition) reports (pdf):

42 of these 113 “race/ethnicity unknown” identified as multiracial [in the freshmen class]. Because it is not possible to report students who identify with more than one race, and because Amherst is unwilling to use racial trumping rules, these 42 students of color are added to the “unknown” category.

Interesting! I think that Williams would have classified those 42 students as belonging to whichever racial/ethnic category Williams viewed as most desirable. So, a student who checked both Asian and African-American would be classified by Williams as African-American. Williams would then classify the remaining 71 students — those who declined to provide a race — as white. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

3) Do you prefer the Williams policy or the Amherst policy?

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Expanding the Chaplain’s Office?

Those of you who are on-campus or who read the Record probably know that, as the Record recently reported, Chaplain to the College Rick Spalding and the Muslim Students Union are cooperating in an effort to add a Muslim chaplain to the College staff. Currently, the campus Muslim community is served only by a “Muslim Advisor,” Parvin Hajizadeh. Hiring a Muslim chaplain would presumably elevate the level of spiritual services available through the chaplain program to that currently enjoyed by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish students: (Rev. Spalding is a Presbyterian, and the other two chaplains are Father Gary Caster and Hazzan Bob Scherr).

From the Record:

The Muslim Students Union (MSU), a group of active Muslim students that addresses Islamic issues on campus, is currently drafting a proposal that would bring a Muslim chaplain to the College. In tandem with this proposal, College Chaplain Rick Spalding and his colleagues will write a similar proposal and then synthesize the two drafts.

The MSU has long hoped to hire a Muslim chaplain for the College. “We’ve been laying the groundwork for this for five or six years,” Spalding said.

In 2004, the College hired Parvin Hajizadeh as an advisor to Muslim students to nurture the campus Islamic community…

First thought: I’d sure like to know more about Parvin Hajizadeh, who gets a nod in this article, but has rarely appeared in the pages of the Record or other Williams publications.  Her brief bio at the Chaplain’s Office website is intriguing:

I’m originally from Iran and have lived in Williamstown for 18 years. Williams’ increasing diversity has had a very positive impact on our small Muslim community, and I love working with students of different backgrounds. We welcome all believers and seekers, and encourage participation in interfaith activities. I’m happy to share my energy, ideas and, I might add, my home to help us enjoy and learn from one another.

The remark about her home is true — according to the (not quite up-to-date) website of the MSU, “Girls Nights at Parvin’s House” are indeed among the organization’s events. And a Berkshire Eagle article earlier this year on the Eid-al-Fitr celebration noted that the MSU “eats halal food throughout Ramadan at the house of their adviser, Parvin Hajizadeh, of the chaplain’s office.” Opening your home to students is impressive — an example that some of the faculty follow, and that many others could learn from.

David-style suggestion to the Record: maybe it’s time for a longer profile (like this feature on Father Caster?) of Ms. Hajizadeh?

Other thoughts:

I think there’s a good case to be made that support for student religious communities may merit a greater allocation of the College’s resources. Even so, is upgrading the level of support to a community that is already served by an advisor the best next step? Isn’t it likely that the College would be better served by building on the “successful[]” model of an advisor by adding advisors to other faith communities (Buddhist? Hindu? LDS?), rather than increasing the resources dedicated to those already so served? Is there a source of information on the College’s religious demographics, i.e. the number of Catholic students, Buddhist students, Muslim students, etc.? I know it’s not in the annual class profiles, such as the one for the  “Class of 2014.”

And how best to evaluate the proposal for growth of the Chaplain’s Office as opposed to the requests for secular services to be better resourced? Many of these have even been discussed recently at Ephblog, including support for non-traditional students (thanks to current Eph Tatiana for filling us in about her student organization); veterans; the Log (recently noted in Speak Up!), and many others.

Also, the Record suggests that this proposal is prompted by the  “expanding needs” of the Muslim population. Does this reflect just a growth in the numbers of students (numbers again!), or something else — and in what ways are those needs best served through an elevation of the staff position?

Finally, will the proposal be made public? Or will it just be submitted to “Human Resources and the College’s senior staff” to act on without input from the broader Williams community?

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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?

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Apology

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?

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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

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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).

Comments:

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?

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Williams Conversations

Shortly after I graduated from Williams, when I was studying at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg, Germany, I approached a professor lecturing on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival to ask her about a concept in that epic (I believed was) similar to one in Beowulf. “Approach” may not be the best way to describe how I sought to contact this scholar. It was more like chased down. I had to rush after her at the close of the class. Unlike her peers in the Purple Valley, she did not stay after to field questions from students, leaving almost immediately after she excused us.

When I did track her down, she seemed almost stunned by my intellectual interest in the epic–and the comparison I was making (without her prompting) to another great medieval poem.

One could say that is the difference not between Williams and the university in Freiburg, but between an American and a European university.  And to be sure, I often enjoyed conversations with professors at  the various graduate institutions where I have studied on this side of the Atlantic, even dropping by to visit a law school professor when I was in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend.

Yet, we didn’t just have conversations with our professors at Williams.  We often had spirited exchanges, touching on the subject matter of our courses, student life at a small college and even about our career goals or the news of the day.

I was reminded of that when I related the above anecdote to Gail Henderson ’86 while visiting her in Charlotte Monday night.  And like our days at Williams, we ended up talking well into the night, sharing stories of our lives since college and discussing the various challenges we have faced over the years.   Read more

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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

Comments:

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

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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 abovethelaw.com, 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.
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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 abovethelaw.com, 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?

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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?

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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.
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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.


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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?

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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.

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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

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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.)

race

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.

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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.”

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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?

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Voices

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.”

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