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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

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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.

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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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Counting Noses: The Details

The process of racial classification at Williams is endlessly fascinating (see here, here and here). In a previous thread, I was struck by this comment from fellow EphBlog author Reed Wiedower ’00.

As I pointed out during Winter Study, I’m still curious as to why the college keeps lying about the racial question.

Many people my year refused to answer the question, especially those of mixed heritage. Many so called “whites” were equally dismissive of it.

I think that removing oneself from racial aggregate data is statistically a good move. Why? Because it forces the administration to take a look behind the numbers at what is going on.

I should have challenged Reed at the time on his use of word “lying.” First, there is the issue of the anthropomorphizing the “college” — a sin of which I am regularly guilty. The college doesn’t lie (or talk or tell the truth). Individuals at the College do. Second, the honest and hard-working Ephs at the College who are actually responsible for these statistics are doing the best that they can given the constraints that they face.

In fact, Chris Winters ’95, Director of Institutional Research (and the man whose name appears on these documents), was kind enough to explain the mechanics of what happens. Endless details below the break.

Winters writes:

Like all colleges and universities Williams is required to submit reports to the government via the IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) system. Below is probably more than you ever wanted to know on the subject, pasted from the IPEDS website .

Method of collection – The manner of collecting racial/ethnic information is left to the discretion of the institution provided that the system which is established results in reasonably accurate data, which may be replicated by others when the same documented system is utilized. One acceptable method is a properly controlled system of post-enrollment self-identification by students. If a self-identification method is utilized, a verification procedure to ascertain the completeness and accuracy of student submissions should be employed.

Assignment to categories – For the purpose of this report, a student may be included in the group to which he or she appears to belong, identifies with, or is regarded in the community as belonging. However, no person may be counted in more than one racial/ethnic group. Racial/ethnic designations are requested only for United States citizens, resident aliens, and other eligible non-citizens. (See definitions below.)

Racial/ethnic descriptions – Racial/ethnic designations as used in this survey do not denote scientific definitions of anthropological origins. The categories are:

  • a. Black, non-Hispanic – A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa (except those of Hispanic origin).
  • b. American Indian/Alaska Native – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.
  • c. Asian/Pacific Islander – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, or Pacific Islands. This includes people from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, American Samoa, India, and Vietnam.
  • d. Hispanic – A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central, or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
  • e. White, non-Hispanic – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East (except those of Hispanic origin).

Other descriptive categories

  • a. Nonresident alien – A person who is not a citizen or national of the United States and who is in this country on a visa or temporary basis and does not have the right to remain indefinitely. NOTE – Nonresident aliens are to be reported separately in the places provided, rather than in any of the five racial/ethnic categories described above.
  • b. Race/ethnicity unknown – This category is used ONLY if the student did not select a racial/ethnic designation, AND the postsecondary institution finds it impossible to place the student in one of the aforementioned racial/ethnic categories during established enrollment procedures or in any post-enrollment identification or verification process.

    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.

    This is the process used at Williams. This process has been designed to achieve the best results given the sometime competing objectives of:

    • maximizing compliance with IPEDS
    • maximizing data accuracy
    • minimizing student discontent
    • minimizing administrative burden

    Thanks to Chris for taking the time to clarify these issues. Comments:

    1) It is a pleasure to interact with someone like Chris who takes the time and trouble to explain things to interested alumni. Although many/most college officials (Dick Nesbitt, Jim Kolesar, Jo Proctor, to name just a few) are similarly helpful, not all are.

    2) It seems to clear to me from the above that the College is not “lying” about anything. People like Chris are doing the best they can given the constraints that they face.

    3) It would be interesting to learn more details about how the office of the registrar “makes every effort to assign that matriculant to one of the race classifications as defined above.” We have at least one description of this process from Jonathan Landsman ’05.

    Early freshman year, I received a letter from the Admissions Office. It stated that I had declared myself a minority on my application, specifically Puerto Rican. It asked if I still wanted to be considered so, and if not, to contact them and say otherwise.

    Sounds like the Admissions Office does its best to classify people and then passes the baton to the registrar. But how, exactly, does the registrar have a classification “on file” if the student did not check any boxes on the Common Application or if she checked more than one? On the one hand, the “best” description — or at least the most sociologically accurate one — for any student who checks white and some other box is probably white. So, perhaps the Registrar/Admissions Office puts all such multi-box checkers in the white category. On the other hand, there is a lot of pressure on the College do be as diverse as possible, so why not minimize the use of the white box by following a policy of classifying students in the most diversity-increasing manner possible?

    4) I have no opinion on what is the “right” answer here. I just want to better understand how the process works. If a students checks both the Asian and white boxes (as my daughters might) on the Common Application, what happens at Williams?

    5) It would be great fun if a member of the class of 2010 were to make trouble about all of this, either for ideological or entertainment reasons. Surely, there are a couple of Young Republicans out there! Simply insist to the Registrar that you want to be categorized as “Race/ethnicity unknown.” Demand that the College supply evidence for any other classification that it might want to make. Inform the Registrar (in writing!) that you will be checking the College’s common data set to ensure that your classification is correct.

    6) There is an interesting Record article to be written about this topic. Who will write it?

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    The Fisher DeBerry Case (With a Self-Indulgent Williams Perspective)

    “It just seems to be that way, that Afro-American kids can run very, very well. That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can’t run, but it’s very obvious to me they run extremely well.” These are the words that U.S. Air Force academy football coach Fisher DeBerry said in remarks broadcast Tuesday night by Denver television station KWGN. Given that his comments were about race, and may have been courting a stereotype, I suppose we should not be surprised that he is in hot water. I hope that my civil rights/anti-apartheid historian credentials are enough that what I am about to say does not get me in hot water, but I hope Air Force does not punish DeBerry, who, in addition to being a very successful coach, also did not really say anything wrong.

    Now don’t take me the wrong way – I would not place DeBerry as the most eloquent spokesman on race in America. But look at what he said – from his years of coaching football, in general black kids run well. There are white ids and others who run well, but black kids run well. Now I do take issue with the implied inclusion that “all ” black kids run well. They do not, of course, and I am sure DeBerry knows this.

    Let me illustrate my argument by way of two anecdotes, both related to my own years as a track athlete in college, one of which may not make me look all that great, so I will tell it first:

    I competed in events that Fisher DeBerry might associate with black success: The jumps, especially the long and the triple jump. Williams had a very good track team, and one of the great things about track and field is that you get to find out exactly where you are in the global hierarchy. In addition to being very numbers driven, if you are good enough at a lower level you will qualify for bigger meets. Williams is a division III school, but we routinely competed against DI schools. I was a good enough jumper to compete against the big boys, but I was well aware of where I fit into the overall world of track and field. In any case, when I would get to bigger meets where I may have known fewer of the athletes, or if I competed away from New England, say in the South, I would look around and scout out the competition. When I was trying to size up the other jumpers, when I was looking at strangers wearing university of Miami or Florida State or Christopher Newport or whatever other jerseys, I would tend to focus more on the black jumpers than the white guys. I am not proud of it, but I am also not ashamed. And I certainly would not say that it was an illogical conclusion to draw. I would guess that I have a batter grasp on track and field than most of my readers, but even acknowledging that, I think I am on pretty firm ground to ask anyone who would criticize me the following question: Name five truly great white American long jumpers in the last ten years. Twenty years. Now the irony, as I discovered many times, is that there were times when I should have been watching out for the big white guy from Western Carolina or Albany State or the University of Miami (at the biggest meet I ever competed in, the Florida Relays in 1993, I got beaten out for third place by a Miami [Florida] guy on his last triple jump who was, if it is possible, paler than I am. There were even times when those guys maybe should have been looking out for me, as I ended up winning.

    Anecdote #2: When my fellow jumper and teammate “Boogie” (His name was Stuart, but we called him Stu, and then it became “Boogie” after the Led Zeppelin song “Boogie With Stu”) would get to the really big meet, the DI/All New England meet, say, we’d always joke as we watched the early rounds of the sprints about the white guys and how they had better enjoy their time, because they would be watching the finals. Boogie was also a sprinter. He was also black. And lo and behold, once the finals of the 60 or 100 rolled around at the All New England meet or the Florida State relays or nationals, the finals were overwhelmingly African American. We were always joking, but the joke, like many jokes, had an element of truth to it.

    I have no idea why this is so. There are certainly fast white guys. And Asian guys. And Hispanics. And most people, black, white, Asian, and Hispanic, are slow, cannot jump, cannot lift things and so forth – when you are looking at college athletes you are already talking about a genetically exceptional subset, so drawing widespread racial differences from the whole population seems foolish. But I will double down my bet on the long jumpers. I’ll grant you Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 Olympic Champion in the 400. I’ll even give you the Greek 200 runner who won in 2000 (and who failed a piss test in 2004 . . .) And I will remind you exactly what DeBarry said about white athletes: “That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can’t run.” And then I will ask a simple question related to the one I asked earlier: Howe many white medalists have their been in the Olympics and World Championships in the 100, 200, and 400 since 1968? That is 10 Olympics, times three events, times three places in each event. I’m not much at math, but that is 90 possible medals. Even keeping in mind that the United States, the world’s most dominant sprint nation for most of that period, boycotted the 1980 Olympics, is there anyone out there who wants to bet that thirty of those medals went to athletes who were not black? Anyone want to bet on whether or not twenty did?

    Now let’s bring it back o football. Jason Sehorn made some waves for the very fact that he was a decent white starting cornerback in the NFL. And in some attempts to explain why that was so, there was one compelling argument made: That one factor is that coaches simply steer black athletes toward certain positions and white athletes toward others so that irrespective of actual abilities, black kids in integrated high schools will play corner, their white teammate safety. That makes at least some sense. But whatever the case, can anyone honestly say that however anecdotal, and however clumsily stated, Fisher DeBarry was actually wrong? And can his desire to recruit more black athletes to the Air Force Academy actually be something we want to condemn? Especially when DeBarry’s black players have rallied around him? It would seem patently unfair to punish him for his comments. There is lots of very real, very serious, very disturbing racism out there. There are coaches who certainly are racists. But it would be absurd to punish Fisher DeBerry for the current reality of the nature of the sprinting and jumping events and the skill positions in the NFL (and anyone who has been to a college track meet knows that these two things are fungible).

    Cross-posted from dcat.

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    First Days

    If it is a rainy day at the end of August, it must be First Days at Williams. Throughout the 80’s the day of then freshmen now first year arrival seemed to always be a day like today, overcast with a bit of rain but not enough to make moving in too hard. At least, that was the weather 21 years ago.

    But, from EphBlog’s point of view, there are two key questions: First, is anyone blogging the First Days experience? We are most interested in the presentations that the College makes. I heard some negative comments about last year’s speakers and wonder if things will be better this time around. Second, is anyone taking pictures?

    Previous posts on First Days here and here. And, of course, I wonder if the class of 2009 will be learning The Mountains?

    The central goal of First Days should be to ensure that every first year makes at least a friendly acquaintanceship with 50 or so other members of the class. A week is not enough time for friendship, of course, but it would be nice if everyone knew enough people well enough that there was always a table for them to join in Baxter (or wherever it is that first years are eating now). Also, it is best if these meetings are as randomized as possible. Ephs of specific interests and backgrounds will have no doubt congregate in the years to come. First Days is the time to meet those who you might not ordinarily meet.

    The College already starts this process in the right direction by ensuring that entries are a microcosm of Williams as a whole. There is nothing wrong with well done social engineering. It is also wise to provide a week for the first years to do things as a class, without the pressure/distractions of other obligations. (Am I right in thinking that first year athletes don’t start practicing with their teams until after First Days are over?) I hope that the JA’s also mix up people (perhaps via entry-pairings?) in the discussions after the various speakers. And, certainly, every discussion should begin with the sort of learn-everyone’s-name game that is a staple of summer camps and retreats.

    It would be also good to see more of this forced mixing. I hope that WOOLF groups are, for example, not organized by entry but instead mix up the entries as much as possible. It would be even better if the College put WOW later in the semester so that URMs are not (self-)segregated from the very start of their Williams experience.

    We are all purple first.

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    Counting Faculty Noses

    As a follow up to our discussion of undergraduate nose counting, it is interesting to consider the question of faculty nose counting. The Diversity Initiatives (excellent) data tables report that there are 14 “Hispanic” faculty at Williams.

    Are there really? And, who are they?

    To be clear, I am not certain that the 14 number is correct. The chart is hard to read. Whatever the exact number is, I’ll make the following predictions:

    1) The readers of this blog, in their collective wisdom, can not come up with the 14 names. Start with Joe Cruz, Gene Bell-Villada, Cesar Silva, . . .

    2) Vista will not like some of these names. Although most people agree that ethnic identity is one that people may largely (and acting in good faith) claim for themselves, there are limits to what ethnic activists will allow for. If a non-Spanish-speaking professor’s grandfather emmigrated from Spain, should she be counted as Hispanic? I suspect that Vista will answer No.

    3) The College will refuse to release the list of faculty names. (I haven’t yet asked but will soon.) There may be legal reasons for the refusal. Federal law places severe restrictions on what information an employer (like Williams) can provide about specific employees. If so, this raises the interesting question of how any of us can know how many Hispanics teach at Williams.

    EphBlog Koan: If there is a Hispanic teaching at Williams, and no one knows it, does the MCC website celebrate?

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    Counting Noses

    In retrospect, I should have brought up the interesting issue of what counts as “Hispanic” at Williams as a general topic and not tied it directly to one particular student. So, let me bring it up here. The Record reports that:

    [Director of Admissions Richard] Nesbitt said he was “ecstatic” with the yield of minority students. “We’re doing very well by any standards,” he said. Included in the class are 53 Asian Americans, 42 African Americans (down from 53 last year at this time), 55 Latinos (a record high) and three Native Americans. Thirty-two international students have also accepted offers. Nesbitt expected the number of African Americans to rise to 9 percent of the class as decision extensions expire this month.

    Question: Is it true that there are 55 “Latinos” in the class of 2009?

    Read more

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    WSO blog roundup

    The WSO blogs are host to a number of interesting conversations right now – and there’s not a single lost iPod in sight. For alumni and others who may not have visited WSO recently:

    JE discusses (with the use of decimal points) the contradictions that Williams faces between freedom of expression, social justice, and institutional survival. Rondelle Trinidad describes a second disturbing incident that happened to him Friday night (lively argument ensues). Juan Baena has a heartfelt and moving post on being a minority at Williams. Kevin Greener clarifies the Friday incident and takes issue with Rondelle’s characterization of the person in question. M Esa Seegulam defends the “majority” and attacks excessive PC-ness for stifling the speech of Caucasian students. Andrew Roberto talks about feeling excluded by political correctness – because of his membership in the so-called majority. Jose Valenzuela tells bloggers to get out in the real world and be more pro-active. Finally, AB describes how marginalization is caused by the Williams “macro-culture” rather than just race.

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    Race at Williams

    In an interesting thread on the College’s Diversity Report, Matthew T. ’06 writes:

    I mean, they could not really expect Williams students to accept a study based mostly on race, could they? Race, being the arbitrary construct created hundreds of years ago.

    AB ’07 chimes in with:

    Oh yes. We do agree that race is an artificial construct. It’s ludicrous. At the genetic level it’s insignificant if not absent all together.

    AB makes a similar point this week in the Record.

    Race is a social construct. There is little or no correlation between race and genetic differences.

    This is the same malarkey that Williams was serving up to its students 20 years ago. Good to see that some things haven’t changed! Matt and AB should be sure not to check out this blog, and especially not this post. (Don’t) see also here. We would not want to challenge their prejudices. Perhaps the College should consider cutting off access to these sites, and ones like them, from campus computers. Can’t expose Williams students to that viewpoint.

    If you have no idea what race is — and no exposure at Williams to a real diversity of viewpoints on the topic — then you will be hard-pressed to have an intelligent opinion.

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