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Falk on Dallas

EphBlog has fallen down in terms of commenting on President Falk’s letters. Apologies! Let’s start to catch up today by revisiting this July 18, 2016 letter about the Dallas police office shootings.

Standing with Dallas, and against violence
July 18, 2016

To the Williams Community,

As many of you know, this weekend violence erupted in Dallas, Texas, at a “Black Lives Matter” rally. Many people were injured and five police officers were murdered. The violence occurred on and near a college campus.

The events in Dallas were horrible. Violence has no place in American life. By why is Adam Falk lecturing us? Doesn’t he have a job to do? Is he under the impression that there are any Ephs who are in favor of murder?

This is the most annoying sort of virtue signalling. Falk picks a topic on which every Eph agrees, and then wastes our time with his perfectly pedestrian prose. I no more need/want the president of Williams to “educate” me about current events (unrelated to Williams) then I need/want his advice about breakfast cereals.

The events in Dallas were an assault by organized forces of racism and bigotry — a vile and vicious attack on all Americans. That attack is antithetical to everything Williams stands for, and to the values I personally hold most dear. We all must be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America.

Isn’t this a bit over the top? (Perhaps I should cut Falk some slack since he was writing just two days after the violence.) It is true that the shooter, Micah Johnson, had some ugly views and was associated with some horrible (in my view) organizations. But Falk seems to cast a very wide net here. Black Lives Matter, like all political movements, has its own set of crazies and extremists. But that reality does not mean that its fundamental point — that too many innocent blacks are killed by police — isn’t worthy of consideration.

This is not about partisan politics: Republicans, Democrats, and independents from across the political spectrum, and throughout our entire community, are united in opposition to such foul acts. We express our support for and solidarity with the people of Dallas, and with all who are the targets of bigotry and hatred.

True and trite.

Let me be clear. There is no moral equivalence between racists and those who oppose them. Hatred is immoral, undemocratic, and wrong. It has no place at Williams, nor should it be allowed a footing on any campus, nor in our society as a whole.

I agree that Micah Johnson was a racist and that part of his motivation in killing those police officers was anti-white animist. I also admit that other people (no more than a tiny percentage) associated with Black Lives Matter are racist and/or overly sympathetic to some fairly odious views. (I am most annoyed by Communist paraphernalia at these events.) I agree that “foul acts,” including violence (much less murder) are beyond the pale. But Falk seems to be saying more than this. He seems to be implying that, not just Micah Johnson, but also everyone else on that “side” of the debate has “no place at Williams.”

Indeed, Falk seems to be going even further, suggesting that racist views — at least views that Adam Falk deems “racist” — have no place in America. Does he really propose banning free speech for all Black Lives Matter activists? Jailing Communist sympathizers? Removing the protection of the First Amendment for “racists?” That seems a dangerous path to me . . .

Oh, wait a second! Adam Falk never sent out a letter about the violence in Dallas. (That was only five police officers killed by a black man! No reason for a Williams president to involve himself in a local tragedy, hundreds of miles away from Williamstown.) But Falk did write a letter about the violence in Charlottesville. I have made minimal changes in his letter to make it apply to Dallas last year (and added, as a special bonus, a Trump Easter Egg).

Do you think the President of Williams should sent out letters like this one? If so, do you think that he should have sent out a similar letter about the murders in Dallas?

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Cents and Sensibility

From Williams president Morty Schapiro has a new book (with co-author Gary Saul Morson): Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities. Here (pdf) is the first chapter. I love the opening paragraph of the Acknowledgements:

winston

Gordon Winston (RIP) was Morty’s Williams colleague for many years.

Should we spend a week going through the first chapter?

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Ending Kangaroo Courts

Latest from former Williams professor KC Johnson:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Professor Dudley W. R. Bahlman

Inspired by the “Good People of Williams” post (but not wanting my story to be lost in comments), I figured I’d write about Professor Dudley Ward Rhodes Bahlman. (Although to be fair, he went by the less formal “Dudley W. R. Bahlman”). Now that’s a name for a college professor. He looked the part as well. Easily 6’2,” he was a big man. Rumor had it that he’d played on the Yale football team. I never found out whether it was true, but he certainly had the build of a linebacker. A linebacker who wore three-piece suits to class; on his days off he’d wear a tweed sportscoat or a Shetland sweater.

Between the name, his build, and the way he dressed, he was an imposing man. So it was with some trepidation that I sat down in his class, my first class in my freshman year at Williams: History 101. “Good morning, class,” he started. “My name is Professor Bahlman. It’s not ‘Dudley’ or ‘Dud’–it’s Professor Bahlman. You will be ‘Mr. Creese’ and ‘Miss Coolidge.’ Maybe when we all die and go to that big Heaven in the sky I’ll be Dud and you can be Chip or Buffy, but in this class we will address each other formally. Is that understood?” We all gulped and nodded.

“Now, you’ll notice that I walk around a lot in class,” he said, striding forcefully back and forth across the front of the room in Greylock. “I have a lot of energy and I find it useful. I used to twirl my pocket watch on the end of its chain, but the chain let go one day and beaned a student. Knocked him out cold. Took several minutes to bring him around. So now I just walk back and forth.” Once again we gulped and nodded.

I learned a lot from him, but two lessons stand out. The first paper we had to write for him was a five-pager answering the question, “Was World War II inevitable?” Like many students at Williams, I had been a straight A student in high school. Needless to say, I was shocked when I got the paper back with a big “C+” on it. Everyone else was pretty much in the same boat, so the general demeanor in the class that day was total disbelief.

He started out, “I suspect that many of you are disappointed in your grade–as well you should be. Frankly, many of the papers were not well argued. It’s fair to say that your first mistake was to answer the question I posed.” We’re looking at each other, going, “Huh? What was that again?” He went on. “Look at how I posed the question: ‘Is World War II inevitable?’ You need to qualify the question. Inevitable when? In 1935? In September 1939? Furthermore, the word ‘inevitable” is a trap. It’s too absolute. You should have started your paper by saying something like, ‘I will answer the question, “Was World War II inevitable?” by answering the more specific question: “At the beginning of December 1941, was it probable that the U.S. would have eventually entered World War II, even if Pearl Harbor hadn’t happened?”‘ Remember, it’s your paper; you’re in control of what you write. Don’t blindly follow the professor over a cliff.”

Thirty-seven years after that class the lesson is still burned into my brain: Recast the question if necessary.

My junior year I took Professor Bahlman’s class on Victorian England and learned yet another lesson. He was a big believer in making us read “the definitive works,” some of which were quite dry. We had a quiz at the start of class one day and although most of us did pretty well, the entire class was stumped by one specific question. (We all compared notes during the break, since it was a three-hour class.) We ganged up on him once we got back in class, all of us claiming that that we’d never seen that answer in the assigned reading. “Ah,” he said, his eyes sparkling. “That was in the footnotes. You should always read the footnotes.”

I carefully read footnotes to this day.

Finally, to give a hint of his softer side, a story from outside of class. One Winter Study I did an oral history project about Williams during the Baxter and Sawyer administrations. I went around and interviewed faculty and staff who’d worked for Presidents Baxter and Sawyer, and Professor Bahlman was one of them, since he had served as Dean of the Faculty under Sawyer. At one point he got onto recounting some student pranks during the 1960s, and made the comment, “You know, I think students take themselves way too seriously these days. We haven’t had a good student prank in the past several years.”

Partly emboldened by his offhand comment–and somewhat distressed that the future Sawyer Library was being built without the obligatory construction sign listing the architect, construction firm, etc.–my roommates and I decided we would correct that omission. We created a large plywood sign, white with purple letters, that said, “Site of the Future Smilin’ Jack Sawyer Library.” We attached it to the fence surrounding the construction site in the dead of night (and got caught by Security in the process–but that’s another story). The sign suddenly appearing out of nowhere caused a minor sensation, since many people couldn’t figure out whether the sign was official or not. (We’d worked hard to make it appear professionally done.) Its appearance was written up in the Williams Record, and the college sent a picture of it to alumni in a newsletter, attributing the sign to “student humorists.” Several days later, I ran into Professor Bahlman at a hockey game as I was scooting past him to get to a seat. He looked down at my sneakers with dabs of paint on them, smiled, and said, “That’s an interesting shade of purple paint, Mr. Creese,” and winked.

In my mind, a great professor.

UPDATE: This post was originally posted in 2008. But, we need to “re-up” wonderful writing like this, bringing Williams history to a new generation of readers. — DDF

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KC Johnson on Free Speech

Former Williams professor KC Johnson writes in Commentary:

In early May, the Washington Post urged universities to make clear that “racist signs, symbols, and speech are off-limits.” Given the extraordinarily broad definition of what constitutes “racist” speech at most institutions of higher education, this demand would single out most right-of-center (and, in some cases, even centrist and liberal) discourse on issues of race or ethnicity. The editorial provided the highest-profile example of how hostility to free speech, once confined to the ideological fringe on campus, has migrated to the liberal mainstream.

The last few years have seen periodic college protests—featuring claims that significant amounts of political speech constitute “violence,” thereby justifying censorship—followed by even more troubling attempts to appease the protesters. After the mob scene that greeted Charles Murray upon his visit to Middlebury College, for instance, the student government criticized any punishment for the protesters, and several student leaders wanted to require that future speakers conform to the college’s “community standard” on issues of race, gender, and ethnicity. In the last few months, similar attempts to stifle the free exchange of ideas in the name of promoting diversity occurred at Wesleyan, Claremont McKenna, and Duke. Offering an extreme interpretation of this point of view, one CUNY professor recently dismissed dialogue as “inherently conservative,” since it reinforced the “relations of power that presently exist.”

It’s easy, of course, to dismiss campus hostility to free speech as affecting only a small segment of American public life—albeit one that trains the next generation of judges, legislators, and voters. But, as Jonathan Chait observed in 2015, denying “the legitimacy of political pluralism on issues of race and gender” has broad appeal on the left. It is only most apparent on campus because “the academy is one of the few bastions of American life where the political left can muster the strength to impose its political hegemony upon others.” During his time in office, Barack Obama generally urged fellow liberals to support open intellectual debate. But the current campus environment previews the position of free speech in a post-Obama Democratic Party, increasingly oriented around identity politics.

Waning support on one end of the ideological spectrum for this bedrock American principle should provide a political opening for the other side. The Trump administration, however, seems poorly suited to make the case. Throughout his public career, Trump has rarely supported free speech, even in the abstract, and has periodically embraced legal changes to facilitate libel lawsuits. Moreover, the right-wing populism that motivates Trump’s base has a long tradition of ideological hostility to civil liberties of all types. Even in campus contexts, conservatives have defended free speech inconsistently, as seen in recent calls that CUNY disinvite anti-Zionist fanatic Linda Sarsour as a commencement speaker.

In a sharply polarized political environment, awash in dubiously-sourced information, free speech is all the more important. Yet this same environment has seen both sides, most blatantly elements of the left on campuses, demand restrictions on their ideological foes’ free speech in the name of promoting a greater good.

Indeed. The main thing we can do at EphBlog is to fight this tendency at Williams. Who will join us?

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Michael Lewis on Free Speech

Professor Michael Lewis writes in Commentary:

Free speech is a right but it is also a habit, and where the habit shrivels so will the right. If free speech today is in headlong retreat—everywhere threatened by regulation, organized harassment, and even violence—it is in part because our political culture allowed the practice of persuasive oratory to atrophy. The process began in 1973, an unforeseen side effect of Roe v. Wade. Legislators were delighted to learn that by relegating this divisive matter of public policy to the Supreme Court and adopting a merely symbolic position, they could sit all the more safely in their safe seats.

Since then, one crucial question of public policy after another has been punted out of the realm of politics and into the judicial. Issues that might have been debated with all the rhetorical agility of a Lincoln and a Douglas, and then subjected to a process of negotiation, compromise, and voting, have instead been settled by decree: e.g., Chevron, Kelo, Obergefell. The consequences for speech have been pernicious. Since the time of Pericles, deliberative democracy has been predicated on the art of persuasion, which demands the forceful clarity of thought and expression without which no one has ever been persuaded. But a legislature that relegates its authority to judges and regulators will awaken to discover its oratorical culture has been stunted. When politicians, rather than seeking to convince and win over, prefer to project a studied and pleasant vagueness, debate withers into tedious defensive performance. It has been decades since any presidential debate has seen any sustained give and take over a matter of policy. If there is any suspense at all, it is only the possibility that a fatigued or peeved candidate might blurt out that tactless shard of truth known as a gaffe.

A generation accustomed to hearing platitudes smoothly dispensed from behind a teleprompter will find the speech of a fearless extemporaneous speaker to be startling, even disquieting; unfamiliar ideas always are. Unhappily, they have been taught to interpret that disquiet as an injury done to them, rather than as a premise offered to them to consider. All this would not have happened—certainly not to this extent—had not our deliberative democracy decided a generation ago that it preferred the security of incumbency to the risks of unshackled debate. The compulsory contraction of free speech on college campuses is but the logical extension of the voluntary contraction of free speech in our political culture.

Hmmm. Not sure I buy the thesis that American-specific changes in politics caused problems for free speech. How does Lewis explain the fact that free speech is under even greater attack in Great Britain and Germany, despite the fact that their political systems have not (?) changed to favor “the security of incumbency” nearly to the extent that ours has?

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Eisenson ’77 on Falk Departure

At 12:53 pm yesterday, just 19 minutes after Falk’s all campus email:

To the Williams Community,

I write, on behalf of the Williams College Board of Trustees and with mixed emotion, to officially confirm that Adam Falk will leave Williams at the end of 2017 to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The College has flourished under Adam’s leadership. We have sustained and, indeed, enhanced our position as a national leader in liberal arts education. We have maintained our commitment to providing access to the broadest possible spectrum of exceptional students, attracting ever increasing talent and diversity to our campus. We have had great success recruiting accomplished and highly sought-after new members to join our outstanding faculty ranks and, as well, Adam has built a deep and effective senior leadership team. Our campus is undergoing an ambitious, carefully-orchestrated renewal, with superb new facilities, including the Sawyer Library and a major new center for the sciences, positioning us for the next fifty years, while reflecting a purposeful commitment to managing our carbon footprint. Our alumni and friends have set the historic Teach It Forward campaign well on the path to achieving our ambitious goals, and the College’s finances are in all ways very sound.

Adam has been an exceptionally fine president for Williams. He has demonstrated a keen ability to appreciate and retain the best of Williams traditions, while encouraging the College to grow through a genuine openness to innovation, always with the education and wellbeing of our students foremost in mind. His departure will be a loss for the College and our community, and I will personally miss his wisdom, his friendship, and his deeply thoughtful and principled leadership. At the same time, he will be leaving at a time when the College is as strong, secure and thriving as it has ever been and the Board of Trustees is completely confident that Williams will attract another exceptional talent to lead us into the next decade.

Adam’s last day at Williams will be December 31, 2017. The Board has approved the formation of a search committee, and I have been appointed as its chair. In that capacity I will be back in touch later this Summer with information about the search process. We will organize various opportunities in the Fall for the community to thank Adam for his service and wish him well. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Adam on his exciting next adventure and in making the most of his remaining time in the Purple Valley.

Best regards,
Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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Falk Steps Down

Today at 12:34 pm:

To the Williams community,

I’m writing to share with you the news that, at the end of December, I will leave Williams to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York.

I arrived in the Purple Valley in April of 2010, and the ensuing years have been among the most gratifying of my career. It makes me genuinely happy, looking back, to see what together we’ve achieved. Williams is attracting even greater numbers of passionate, insightful and diverse students. We’re making this place accessible to people who couldn’t consider coming here otherwise. We’re renewing our campus and making major investments in its sustainability. We’re hiring and supporting the deeply committed faculty and staff who define this college. And our loyal alumni are giving and volunteering in ways that help students thrive at Williams and build successful and rewarding lives after graduation.

Why would anyone leave such a place, at such a time? There are few opportunities that could have drawn me away. But it’s a familiar irony that the best time for a school to recruit a new president isn’t during a period of stagnation or trial, but at a time of vitality and promise. When the Sloan Foundation approached me a short while ago to lead their extraordinary institution, I was only able to consider this invitation to pursue other passions of mine—science and graduate education, among them—because I knew I’d be leaving Williams at such a vibrant moment in its history.

There will be no coasting during my remaining months on the job: we have much to accomplish together. Among my goals for this fall are the successful conclusion of our decennial reaccreditation process, raising support for Williams through the Teach It Forward campaign, continuing to advance the Science Center project, and paving the way for a smooth transition for my eventual successor.

December will come soon enough. And when it does I’ll miss Williams, and all of you, deeply. Thank you for the affection this community has shown me, and for the good work we’ve all been able to do together over these eight years.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President, Williams College

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Falk Responds to Senator Kennedy, 2

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 4.

Continuing our examination of Falk’s “interview” in Time magazine:

Falk said universities across the country have been tested by “the toxic political culture that all of us are currently swimming in,” but he believes Williams has remained a welcoming place for public debate.

Paging George Orwell! Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Truth. And Williams is a “welcoming place for public debate.” Recall the official editorial position of the Williams Record:

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

If the college paper wants to ban Suzanne Venker — or anyone who disagrees with feminist orthodoxy? — and the college president has no problem banning a speaker, then, whatever its other merits, that school is not “a welcoming place for public debate.”

Back to the Time interview:

“There are things in the broader culture that have changed. We are a much more combative political culture,” Falk said. “Our campuses are more civil than what you get when you turn on your TV or open your Twitter feed.”

Perhaps true, but mostly irrelevant. Falk is not responsible for the larger culture. But he does bear some responsibility for the culture at Williams, and that includes the fashion in which some Williams students treat other Williams students on-line. Recall the sort of abuse that Zach Wood and the other students behind Uncomfortable Learning were subject to:

When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ you are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students, but you are also—paying—for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters. You are giving those who spout violence the money that so desperately needs to be funneled to black and brown (trans) femme communities, to people who are leading the revolution, who are surviving in the streets, who are dying in the streets. Know, you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood.

That this occurred on Facebook, rather than in person, does not disguise the fact that Williams is a college in which some students will attack other students in the most extreme fashion, for the simple sin of bringing a speaker to campus. The President of Williams ought to do something about that, other than blaming Twitter.

Back to Time:

During the hearing, as Senators debated First Amendment issues that have riled campuses from Middlebury to Berkeley this year, they continued to ask where the line should be drawn between speech that is protected and prohibited. Falk said visiting speakers should “contribute to a serious intellectual discussion of serious ideas,” adding that the college doesn’t have an obligation to host speakers, like Derbyshire, who aim only to provoke.

Falk’s mind-reading powers are impressive! How can he possibly know what is in John Derbyshire’s heart? It is true that there are figures on the right — Milo Yiannopoulos? Richard Spencer? — to whom the “aim only to provoke” attack might apply. But Derbyshire is not one of them. He is an straight-laced, non-shouting, hyper-reasonable intellectual, a published author with an impressive range of interests. He is certainly a “racist” — at least as Adam Falk would define that term — but he is every bit an intellectual as the average member of the Williams faculty.

“It has always been the responsibility of the administration at a university to foster an environment where discourse around a wide variety of ideas expressed by a wide variety of people is effective and flourishes. That’s part of what we do to run a college and university. And that work is much more complex than simply, in an indiscriminate way, giving a platform to anyone who wants to speak,” Falk said.

Williams, as an institution, does not give a “platform” to anyone. Specific people at Williams invite speakers. The question is: Can students (or faculty!) invite John Derbyshire, or anyone else that Falk disagrees with?

“Freedom of speech is a fundamental value of society, and it’s a fundamental value on our campuses. But we also have to create conditions where that speech is civil and the dialogue that it spawns is productive.”

Agreed. So why doesn’t Falk do his job and make this happen?

While state lawmakers are considering legislation to regulate student protesters and discipline hecklers, Falk said such measures are unnecessary.

“We do our best to manage these challenges,” he said. “But they’re not existential, they’re not unprecedented.”

Agreed. The last thing we right-wing Ephs want is a stronger federal government. Washington should leave Williams alone.

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Falk Responds to Senator Kennedy, 1

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 3.

President Adam Falk provides a response, of sorts, to the call for his resignation (from Senator Kennedy) in this puffball Time interview:

The president of Williams College is defending his decision to cancel a controversial speech at the school last year, after he came under fire during a Senate hearing this week about the “assault on the First Amendment on college campuses.”

A perfectly good lede, although pendants will note that Falk did not merely “cancel” a speech; he banned John Derbyshire from ever speaking at Williams, on any topic. But, as always at EphBlog, we want the backstory. How did Falk decide to talk to Time rather than some other outlet? How did 24-year-old reporter Katie Reilly end up with the assignment?

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

Isn’t that exactly right? Williams, as an institution, is firmly committed to social tolerance, to all the appropriate progressive fashions. We get our pronouns and our bathrooms right! Falk is, obviously, not committed to political tolerance for anyone to the right of, say, George Bush.

Last year, Wood invited conservative writer John Derbyshire — who wrote a 2012 column for an online magazine that was widely criticized as racist, leading to his firing from the National Review — to speak on campus. Falk canceled the event, saying Derbyshire’s comments “clearly constitute hate speech.”

Falk’s reasoning was shallow, at best. But I have yet to provide a sentence-by-sentence exegesis. Save that for September?

More importanly, Derbyshire was not planning to speak on topics related to that controversy. Instead, his speech was going to be about immigration. Uncomfortably Learning informed Falk and the Administration about this. So, Falk’s position seems to be that if Speaker X ever says something hateful about Topic Y, then he will be banned from talking about Topic Z (or any other topic) at Williams. presumably forever. Falk doesn’t just want to ban hate speech. He wants to ban anyone who has ever uttered hate speech.

It is at this point that the careful reader starts to suspect a set up. Did Reilly ask any difficult questions? Did she have any follow ups? Did she speak with any of Falk’s critics, including Wood? I suspect not. Reilly is acting — perhaps in the best tradition of Time magazine? — as a stenographer to power. Her job is not to trouble Falk. Her job is to spin for him.

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

Indeed. Even if Falk believes — and I have no reason to doubt his claims on this score — that Derbyshire, along with the rest of the Alt (or Dissident) Right, is guilty of hate speech, he is hardly doing Williams students any favors by barring that speech from campus. With Trump in the White House — and Miller/Bannon behind the scenes — the Alt-Right matters.

In an interview with TIME after the hearing, Falk defended himself, saying he believed Kennedy had misunderstood the situation.

If Falk really believes that, he is a fool. If he doesn’t, he is a knave. Wood provide Kennedy with an accurate summary of the facts: a student group invited Derbyshire and Falk banned him from speaking. The Record ought to follow up by calling Senator Kennedy’s office for more back-and-forth.

Perhaps more importantly: Who is advising Falk? There are politically smart ways out of the ditch he has dug for Williams (and himself). Implying that a US Senator is clueless is not the approach to take.

UPDATE: Instead, he should follow this advice from an EphBlog reader:

Praise Uncomfortable Learning. Point out the service they provide, commit to helping them continue, highlight the very respectful appearance and treatment of Charles Murray at Williams College, point out some of the other groups and faculty who have committed to expanding discussions on campus (Williams Forum, new College Republicans, the event with Scott Brown, etc.).

This is pretty simple PR. Add some money to the mix and write a piece for WSJ or NYT. Here is a similar piece from the Wesleyan president.

Exactly right. Odds on Falk doing so?

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Senator Kennedy Calls for Adam Falk’s Resignation

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 2.

When was the last time a US Senator called for the resignation of the president of Williams College? Last week!

I can’t figure out how to excerpt a portion of the video, but this is the key exchange, between Zach Wood ’18 and Senator Kennedy.

ken1

I am not sure that this is fair to Suzanne Venker, or to Adam Falk. First, Venker has never argued that women “should be kept at home.” She argues that the insistence, by some feminists, that women need to work outside the home is nuts. She is “anti-feminists” in the sense that she disagrees with many of the positions that most/all feminists take, not that she disagrees with everything they say. Of course, Zach is speaking off the cuff (in the Senate!), so we should cut him some slack.

Second, Falk had nothing to do with the Venker cancellation. (Zach knows this, of course, but probably felt that he was not well-placed to correct a Senator in mid-rant.) However, given Falk’s behavior in regards to Derbyshire, I am now annoyed about the Administration’s preening about how, of course, they were sad that the students themselves cancelled Venker in the face of the Facebook mob.

ken2

Good stuff! Can anyone provide a link that goes to directly to this part of the video? Can anyone remember the last time a US Senator discussed the performance of a Williams College president? We have already determined (?) that the last Williams president to ban a speaker was Mark Hopkins preventing Ralph Waldo Emerson from coming to campus 150 years ago. Let’s play another SAT analogy game:

Kennedy:Falk :: ?:?

Also, what advice do you have for Falk on how to handle this?

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Time Magazine Article on Falk/Derbyshire

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

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

Emphasis mine.

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

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

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

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Do Your Job

From the Eagle:

Williams College President Adam Falk has joined Williams College with hundreds of other entities committing to the Paris climate accords following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the international agreement to cut carbon emissions.

Falk signed on to the “We Are Still In” statement last week, joining more than 1,200 governors, mayors, businesses, investors and higher education leaders from across the U.S. who declared their intent to continue to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing carbon emissions.

The “We Are Still In” statement calls the Trump administration’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris agreement one that “undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change [and a move which is] out of step with what is happening in the United States.”

The statement can be found at www.wearestillin.com.

Falk said Williams’ commitment to addressing climate change, outlined in a set of initiatives developed and approved by the board of trustees in 2015, will continue as the campus community works toward achieving sustainable carbon neutrality by the end of 2020.

1) Instead of wasting time with virtue signalling, why doesn’t Falk do his job? Consider the example of the scores of students forced out of data sciency courses like STAT 201 and CSCI 135. These are great courses. But, precisely because of their quality and popularity, enrollment has been capped. It would be easy for Falk to do something about this, to authorize these departments to hire a visiting assistant professor or two to offer a few extra sections. The fact that he has failed to do so is evidence that he is prioritizing the wrong things as Williams president.

2) Is there any actual substance to this pledge? From the press release: “The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them.” In other words, Williams could participate in this agreement even if it planned on doubling its emissions.

3) Is there a realistic plan for Williams to attain “carbon neutrality by the end of 2020?” Color me skeptical! Williams feeds and houses 2,000 people. That takes a lot of carbon! Anyone have links to the plan?

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Provost Documents

Provost Dukes Love is, officially, EphBlog’s favorite senior member of the Williams Administration. (Dean Dave will always be our favorite administrator.) Dukes is (almost?) as committed to transparency as we are!

1) Recall his decision to make public all historical versions of the Common Data Set.

2) Having considered my question, he made public his presentation materials (pdf) from the Alumni Leadership meeting. Well done!

3) He makes other material public, even before we ask! Consider this Reporting on Staffing (pdf).

Any interest in spending a few days going through these materials?

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Needs a job! Ephblog should act now!

49754311.cached

US citizen. English is first language. Has skills!

UPDATE from DDF: Don’t criticize my friend Swart for not making an Eph-related post! Bill O’Reilly is, of course, famous for seeking sex (sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully) from women when the power relationships involved were quite imbalanced. The relevant Eph comparison is with Williams professors who seek sex from students, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. At least two Williams professors were so successful in this regard that they eventually married their students. And one is still on the Williams faculty! If you object to O’Reilly, do you also object to this behavior?

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Show Them The Money

My co-bloggers here at ephblog central, along with other Ephs of goodwill, often take issue with my postings on the College’s gifts to charity. As many times as I ask, I have trouble finding anyone who will specify where $250,000 should be cut from the College budget to fund worthwhile programs at Mt. Greylock High School.

But perhaps I should turn the question around. Assume that the College has decided to spend an additional $250,000 this year (or even every year) on attracting and retaining the best college teachers in the country. How would I spend this money, if not on gifts to the local schools and hospital along with realestate development?

Call me crazy, but I would . . . Give the money to the very best teachers at Williams!

Show them the money. Would that really be so hard? Establish “Ephraim Williams Awards for Teaching Excellence.” Five would be given out every year, each consisting of a cash prize of $50,000. Winners would be selected by a committee dominated by students. The only restriction might be that the same person can’t win two years in a row. Nothing would prevent truly exceptional teachers from being recognized several times each decade.

Of course, there is a lot that could be done with these awards. Perhaps one of the awards should be reserved for excellence in advising senior theses and/or individual projects — thus ensuring that not just the best lecturers win. Perhaps 2 of the five awards could be determined by former students — ideally committees centered around events like the 10th and 25th year reunions. This would nicely bias things toward professors who make a career at Williams, thereby giving folks like Gary Jacobsohn and Tim Cook a(nother) reason to stay.

If you want great teachers to come to and stay at Williams, then giving them special prizes is almost certainly the most cost effective way of doing so.

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Asian Versus Black SAT Scores

This Brookings Report highlights the continuing gaps in performance on the SAT and similar IQ tests among racial groups. Former Economics Professor Mike McPherson also gets a mention. Key chart:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

Several Ephs tweeted out a link to the related New York Times story:

“Race gaps on the SATs are especially pronounced at the tails of the distribution,” the two authors note. In math, for example,

among top scorers — those scoring between a 750 and 800 — 60 percent are Asian and 33 percent are white, compared to 5 percent Latino and 2 percent black. Meanwhile, among those scoring between 300 and 350, 37 percent are Latino, 35 percent are black, 21 percent are white, and 6 percent are Asian.

Translating those percentages into concrete numbers, Reeves and Halikias estimate that

in the entire country last year at most 2,200 black and 4,900 Latino test-takers scored above a 700. In comparison, roughly 48,000 whites and 52,800 Asians scored that high. The same absolute disparity persists among the highest scorers: 16,000 whites and 29,570 Asians scored above a 750, compared to only at most 1,000 blacks and 2,400 Latinos.

There should be a way to combine this data with what we know about college admissions and applicant preferences to get a more up-to-date estimate of racial distribution of SAT scores at Williams. Start with the latest available Common Data Set (pdf):

scores

Full analysis left as an exercise for the reader! Comments:

1) About 2/3s of Williams students score above a 1400 combined. Speaking very roughly (and using hand-waving as my statistical estimation method of choice), whites and Asian Americans have about the same raw numbers in this pool. (There are, of course, many more white than Asian 17 year-olds in the US, but the whites do much worse on the SATs (and most other IQ tests)). So, why is the ratio of whites to Asians among Williams students almost 4:1? This suggests that Williams might discriminate against Asian-Americans in admissions. Now, there are many other plausible explanations other than discrimination which might explain this, mainly involving student/family preferences. But there is an interesting Record article (or senior thesis!) to write about this topic.

2) The ratio of Asian-Americans (74) to African-Americans (43) in the class of 2020 is not quite 2:1. But the ratio of students with Williams caliber SAT scores between these two groups is at least 20:1. The only thing that could possibly explain this discrepancy is massive preferences for African-Americans (relative to Asian-Americans) in Williams admissions. Taking another hand-waving guess, I would estimate that at least 70 of the Asian-Americans scored higher on the SAT/ACT than at least 40 of the African-Americans. In other words, the two distributions probably have almost no overlap, looking something like:

Rplot001

That couldn’t cause any problems on campus, could it? Below is an example of the sorts of “conversations” that students with radically different SAT scores have at Williams.

Read more

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Deans Instruct Prof to Move Deadlines After Election, 1

For what reasons would the College administrators cancel classes or grant extensions for academic requirements? I personally have never had an exam moved, and I’ve only had class cancelled once, and that was only because my professor was so sick that she could not rise out of bed (first time she’s cancelled class in 10 years. Reasonable!). Otherwise, I have no memory of the college administrators cancelling a class or moving requirements at Williams. You would think this is rare and never happens, but fortunately for future historians, a member of the class of 2019 provides us with an example:

Dear Concerned Eph ’17,

Thank you so much for doing what you’re doing. It’s finally time that the administration answers for its malfeasance. I have one: when Donald Trump was elected, many students were really upset by the result that many professors and deans allowed students to skip class because of how they felt, or (shockingly) because they stayed up watching the election. What is egregious, in my opinion, is the specific actions of the Dean’s Office. I was in MATH 341: Probability that semester, being taught by Professor Steven Miller. That week, we happened to be in the middle of a takehome period (Prof. Miller assigned a 30 hour take home to be completed anytime that week), and following the election, many of these upset students asked for an extension (even though we had a week for a test that took just ONE day!!!). Professor Miller did not initially grant these, because what basis did they have, right? Trump won, and while you may not agree (I personally wish the election had gone another way), but it’s no excuse not to do work or move on. These students, however, appealed to the Dean’s Office, and as a result, they actually told Professor Miller to move the deadline/grant extensions for his midterm. How do I know this? Professor Miller said “any extension will come from the deans” and the students who complained got their extensions. One classmate told me that it was all sorted out once her complaints reached Dean Sandstrom.

Is this something we can do now when someone we don’t like gets elected? This is ANOTHER example of the Dean’s Office showing explicit, preferential treatment in the form of BREAKING ACADEMIC POLICY (when does Williams ever cancel or move exams?!) to coddle students it agrees with. The Dean’s Office does way more than just banning speakers. I strongly believe this undermines the point of a Williams education.

Please continue revealing these irresponsible actions by that office.

Best,

Pissed Off Eph ’19

Emphasis mine. Thank you, Pissed Off Eph, for your tip and for allowing me to publish this in full. This email speaks for itself and hits all the right points. I will need more than one post to unpack this fully. This is the first.

I have independently confirmed with classmates I know who took MATH 341 last semester, and, this actually happened. As a member of the Williams community I am embarrassed that the Dean’s Office acted like this. And I thought that the email Dean of Faculty Denise Buell encouraging professors to do this was already bad. I did not expect that the Dean’s Office would go so far to actually tell a professor how to do his job.

Questions:

  1. With Dean of Faculty Denise Buell’s emails and the Dean’s Office’s actions, it seems reasonable to say this likely happened in more than just one class with more than just one professor. In which other classes did the deans explicitly instruct professors to cancel class/move requirement deadlines following last year’s election? Please let me know at concerned.ephs@gmail.com so we can catalog this.
  2. Who in the Dean’s Office issued this order (or orders, if this happened more than once)? Was it Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom, as Pissed Off Eph implies, or was it Dean of Faculty Denise Buell, who sent the email that encouraged this behavior in the first place? Is this the kind of behavior we can expect from the leaders of the Williams administration?
  3. Did this happen in any other peer university?To the best of my research/knowledge, nothing of this sort (administrators telling professors how to do their jobs) happened in any other NESCAC or Ivy League college. In fact, in Columbia, the deans there explicitly told students they would not be instructing professors to move deadlines/grant extensions/whatever after students appealed to them. If the administrators at Columbia and elsewhere decided not to do this, then why did the Dean’s Office here decide on the complete opposite?

What do our readers think of the deans’ actions?

This reporting is made possible by tips from the Williams community, and future generations of Ephs are that much better for these. If you have any stories like these that deserve to see the light of day, shoot me an email at concerned.ephs@gmail.com!

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Hello, EphBlog! – Concerned Ephs ’17 (and ’18, and ’19, and so forth)

The first time I came to Williams was the fall before my freshman year – my eighth stop in my college tour, and by then, I’d discovered that the best way to truly learn about a school, skeletons included, wasn’t through admissions tours or glossy brochures, but by dropping in on a class, looking at the person beside me, shaking my head, and declaring “Oh my god, I heard that problem set was so hard.” Fortunately (for me at least) this proved quite effective when I visited because it happened to be midterm season then. I sat in a physics lecture, looked to my right, and said: “Oh my god, I heard that midterm was so hard.” The girl seated beside me, Jaime, enlarged her eyes and nodded in agreement, and to my delight, began speaking in earnest, generous detail about her packed (to put it lightly) week: a dance show just three days for which she had daily rehearsals, some RA work that was due with the statistics department, planning a surprise birthday for her entrymate (Willy D!), holding office hours for a CS class she was TA-ing, and, of course, the lab element of her physics midterm. Jaime looked exhausted and sleep deprived, and had the bloodshot eyes to prove it. As she was about to say more, to my surprise Jaime stopped herself and shrugged: “Sorry, I shouldn’t be complaining. Forget what I just said.” Perplexed with this realization following her rant, I asked her what she meant. “Everyone at Williams is so lucky to be here. Sometimes it gets overwhelming but what makes this all so worth it, what makes this place unique I guess, is that everyone really cares.” She packed up her things, and in the face of a mountain of commitments the following day, proceeded to old Sawyer, where her tutee would be waiting. I was sold – no one in any other school said anything remotely as powerful.

It didn’t take long after I first arrived to realize how true Jaime’s words (and so, so much more!) are. Coming from the other side of the world, coming to Williams was a huge leap of faith; now, some years later, my roots are firmly planted in this fertile, Purple Valley. Some of my most cherished memories and most powerful moments include the all nighters I spent with fellow classmates studying for that last bio final in Science Quad; the conversations I’d have with professors-turned-mentors, where their passions exude in their excitement; the many times I’ve seen both friends and strangers drop everything to help a fellow classmate in need. As time went by, the four years here I once considered a mere stepping stone slowly became an end unto itself. As with the many who read and write for this blog, I’ve come attribute much of who I am today to the people I’ve met, befriended, learned from, and mentored (you go full circle at Williams!), and the ideas that I’ve explored with them here in the Purple Valley.

It’s for these very reasons that I, along with two friends from the class of ’18 and ’19, have taken to EphBlog as students who are very concerned with the state of matters in the college. As our affinity and affection for Williams grew, so did our awareness of the institution and internal workings behind the name. As many of my fellow upperclassmen will agree, the more time one spends at Williams, the more one begins to notice the disturbing cracks in the well: fellow classmates unceremoniously ignored or stonewalled by administrators, the rude and unfair treatment of students who want to start clubs (some elements of Williams make this shockingly difficult if they do not agree with you!), backwards and arbitrary use of policy, rampant and potentially systemic Honor Code violations, and so much more! It was a deeply sad and distressing moment for all of us when we realized that the Williams to which we aspired wasn’t the Williams we thought it was.

Unfortunately, Williams students are not ideally placed to solve, let alone notice, these problems. We students come and go every year, the Record is unable to report anything substantive (for good reason, which we’ll get to in a future post!), and no student will have any reasonable measure of institutional memory to draw on. What’s more is that in our efforts to get answers to issues, it’s been made quite clear to us that there is no place for questions, debate, and opinions (esp. if you do not agree with Williams) in the Purple Valley. Sometimes, these concerns may initially seem isolated to individual cases. However, as we began investigating and hearing more and more Hopkins Horror Stories (as they’re known among students) and other disturbing events from fellow students and professors, patterns just as perturbing started emerging that we could no longer ignore – especially since many of them are quite structural (and thus here to stay) in nature! Many of our professors, especially those who’ve been here longer, pointed (some willingly, most unwillingly) to EphBlog as a means of cataloging, reporting, discussing, and connecting these issues – where else can Williams students earnestly, meaningfully do this? It’s our hope that these efforts help usher a more transparent, fairer Williams that all of us can proudly call their alma mater. At the end of the day, we all play a role in shaping what Williams is, and what we ultimately want it to become.

All this said, though, we also love talking about issues at Williams separate from these concerns – to alums, please let us know what you’d like to hear! We’re very into Ephs doing cool things (so we’ll post a bit about that every now and then!), career advice for younger underclassmen (such as getting that internship), and which classes to take/professors to meet. Otherwise, if you have any tips or issues you’d like to discuss (other current students especially!), shoot us an email at concerned.ephs@gmail.com – we would love to hear from all Ephs!

Happy Friday!

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The Macrogenoeconomics of Comparative Development

The most non-PC research at Williams is probably conducted by associate professor of economics Quamrul Ashraf. (Fortunately for him, his research output (pdf) is deeply impressive and, if he can ever stop co-authoring with his Ph.D. adviser Oded Galor, a tenure offer from a leading research university will probably become available for the asking.) His latest (pdf):

The importance of evolutionary forces for comparative economic performance across societies has been the focus of a vibrant literature, highlighting the roles played by the Neolithic Revolution and the prehistoric “out of Africa” migration of anatomically modern humans in generating worldwide variations in the composition of human traits. This essay surveys this literature and examines the contribution of a recent hypothesis regarding the evolutionary origins of comparative economic development, set forth in Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, to this important line of research.

“[G]enerating worldwide variations in the composition of human traits” is code for, Asians are (genetically) smart and obedient, which is why South Korea is rich, while Africans are (genetically) dumb and violent, which is why Nigeria is poor. Of course, Ashraf puts it much more politely:

Recently, in A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, Nicholas Wade advances an intriguing hypothesis regarding the evolutionary origins of comparative economic development. Citing a wide range of evidence from evolutionary biology on the nature and pace of recent genetic adaptions in human populations, as well as evidence from evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics on the association between somatic traits and social behaviors at the individual level, Wade argues that variation in selective pressures across regions of the globe has given rise to enduring differences in social behaviors across groups, thereby differentially shaping the nature of their institutions and, thus, their level of economic development. In particular, his hypothesis of comparative development suggests that in regions of the world that were historically characterized by higher population density and early statehood, favorable genetic traits (e.g., nonviolence, cooperation, and trust) that were initially concentrated among the rich elites gained an evolutionary advantage, proliferated over time, and contributed to the emergence of growth‐enhancing institutions and a superior development trajectory.

In the end, Ashraf and his co-author argue (unpersuasively) against Wade’s hypothesis, but, from the point of view of the typical Eph social justice warrior, the issue is not their conclusions but the fact that they were willing to even entertain such racist pseudoscience. PC restrictions are not just, or even mostly, about the conclusions you draw, they are about the questions you ask. Fortunately, tenure protects (?) Professor Ashraf. Right?

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URM in Economics

Readers often ask us, “What is virtue-signalling?” Wikipedia reports:

Virtue signalling is the conspicuous expression of moral values by an individual done primarily with the intent of enhancing that person’s standing within a social group.

Consider a concrete example:

urm

This is a retweet from tenured William Economics Professor Sarah Jacobson. Now, to be fair, retweets are not necessarily endorsements, but one does not need to perform a close textual analysis on Jacobson’s twitter feed to know that she agrees with the sentiment expressed.

Here is the Williams economics department:

Department_Photo_Spring2016_v4

Jacobson is on the left. Questions:

1) When was the last time that the economics department hired a tenured or tenure track professor that was a URM? (In economics, neither Asian nor Indian would count under this designation. The department has had plenty of both over the years, especially the latter.) The main focus of URM hiring, at least in economics, is African-American. The department had one such member in the 80’s and, more recently, Kaye Husbands Fealing (pdf), who left in 2009. (Was there a backstory on that departure? I have a vague recollection that it was a family issue.)

2) Hispanics are, as always, harder to count. The department’s webpage suggests no obvious candidates, but, since all you need is a great-grandmother who was born in Spain, there is no simple way of determining who is Hispanic and who is not. I certainly can’t recall any discussion of Hispanics in the department. Pointers?

3) If this is really a correct summary of Fealing’s CV in the 90’s, then the only reason she got tenure at Williams was affirmative action:

pubs

I can’t even remember the last economics professor tenured at Williams with so few (any?) meaningful publications. Maybe in the 50s?

4) Jacobson, although tenured, is still a junior member in a department dominated by non-URM men. So, perhaps she is fighting the good fight from the inside and should not be accused of empty virtue-signalling. Department gossip is always welcome on EphBlog! My sense is that Economics takes demonstrated research quality even more seriously in making hiring decisions than most Williams departments and is, therefore, less likely to be swayed by the diversity apparatchiks in the Administration. Contrary opinions welcome.

5) Consider the CVs of two junior professors (neither white men) in the department: here and here. Trying to find an African-American with similarly excellent credentials (and willing to come to Williams) is about as difficult as finding a white man qualified to play cornerback in the NFL.

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Safety Dance Second Amended Complaint

Here (zip) is a link to a zip folder of all the documents (including exhibits) associated with the latest amended complaint in the Safety Dance sexual assault care and here (pdf) is a highlighted version. Don’t have time to read all that? No worries. Former William professor KC Johnson provides this summary:

(1) Both parties to the case were unappealing. But unappealing students deserve fair treatment just as much as appealing ones.

(2) The accuser was a Williams employee, but received kid-gloves treatment throughout by Williams—in a way that would have been inconceivable if the employee were a man and the student he allegedly mistreated a woman.

(3) The employee had a pattern of filing what appear to have been retaliatory complaints against the student. Williams not only refused to treat the complaints as retaliatory, but refused to consider the effects of the first complaint’s failure on the employee’s credibility for the second complaint.

Beyond the troubling elements from the original complaint, the amended complaint raises four new areas of concern with how Williams handled the case:
Read more

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No Ban, No Wall

Economics Professor Sarah Jacobson tweeted:

nowall

1) The College ought to maintain a list of all faculty members who tweet. (I have a vague sense that such a list used to exist. Best I can find now is this.) The more contact between and among faculty/students/alumni, the better.

2) Politically, it strikes me as a mistake for these protestors to combine their complaints about a ban with complaints about a wall. The ban, especially as it applied to green card holders, was, to some extent unprecedented. Plenty of people are against it, especially when they are confronted with specific stories of refugees. But the wall is another matter. The US border always has a wall (on some sections), partially built by Barack Obama. Telling me you are against the wall is, to me (and a (large?) majority of other Americans?) indistinguishable from a claim that the US should have open borders, that anyone who wants to come to the US (and does not commit a violent felony) should be allowed to do so. Fighting Trump on that front seems foolish and doomed to failure.

3) Who are the Ephs most involved in the protests against Trump in the Williamstown area? (My sense is that Jacobson was just passing through the airport when she took this photo.) What are their plans for future events?

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Professor Irwin Corey Dead at 102 …

08COREY1-master768

 

…  however, the Worlds Foremost Authority may have written for Ephblog under the nom de plume John C. Drew PhD.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/professor-irwin-corey-dead-comedian-928653

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Is This What You Voted For?

A friend of EphBlog and one of my favorite alumni wrote in last week (in reference to Trump’s executive order):

Sincere question: can you support the President given these recent actions?

You betcha! Since my friend, I suspect, does not know many Trump supporters, or at least not many Trump supporters with Williams-caliber IQs, let me elaborate.

The central issue in the election (for people like me) was immigration. We want the US to have the immigration policy of a “normal” nation, a place like Japan, Israel, Finland or China. My point, here, is not to argue about whether or not such a policy is best for the future of America or the World. (Let’s have that argument elsewhere.) My point is that, if you were/are an American with this preference then Trump was the only candidate who promised this. In my opinion, without his stance on immigration, Trump would not have won the Republican primary. And, if he had moved to the center during the general election, he would have lost to Clinton. A hundred years from now, much of the day-to-day trivia of governing will have been lost. But if there is one phrase that will still be associated with Trump, it will be “Build the wall.”

Given that policy preference, Trump is doing wonderfully. Naming a justice like Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is the best way to prevent the judiciary from trying to take control of immigration policy. Putting serious immigration restrictionists like Bannon and Miller in the White House guarantees follow through. Selecting heavyweights like Kelly and Sessions for key cabinet positions will bend the bureaucracy to our goals. About the only complaint we have, at this stage, is that Kris Kobach has not been hired yet. But I like to think/hope that Trump is just “saving” Kobach for later after the easy tasks have been accomplished. Summary: if your goal is an America with an immigration policy like Japan’s, Trump has done everything you want.

Even some of the items that seem like incompetence and/or overreach and/or cruelty — like banning green card holders — may be more than they seem. Why not go “too far” at first if doing so causes the eventual compromise to be everything you wanted in the first place? Why not start all the lawsuits running on a policy, like the new version of the EO, which is almost certain to be upheld since it is so similar to past US policies?

What seems like madness to my friend may actually be quite calculated. Trump is a lewd, boorish buffoon but people like Stephen Miller are as serious as black ice on the steps of Chapin. In that regard, consider the latest letter, co-signed by Adam Falk, about Trump’s executive order:

We recognize and respect the need to protect America’s security. The vetting procedures already in place are rigorous. Improvements to them should be based on evidence, calibrated to real risks, and consistent with constitutional principle.

We just had an election fought over this very question. People like me do not think that the current procedures are “rigorous” enough. Finland is an example of a country with an immigration policy “based on evidence” and “calibrated to real risks.” That is the policy we want. You can call us bigots and racists all day long and we won’t care. If it is OK for Israel and China to allow virtually no immigrants, then it is OK for America as well.

In any event, that is my answer to my alumni friend. Trump won the presidency on immigration and, on that policy at least, he is keeping the promises he made. Contrary views welcome in the comments!

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Upset and Overwhelmed

A Williams insider passed along this all-faculty e-mail from the day after the election.

Dear Colleagues,

As you all know, this polarized campaign has both real and felt consequences for many in our community. Many students (as well as faculty and staff) are feeling upset and overwhelmed this morning. We have received a number of messages from students asking to cancel classes today. Although we have a responsibility to continue to hold classes, we encourage you to be as understanding and flexible as possible in response to the very real concerns expressed and felt by our students. Please remember that, as always, you may steer students to college resources for them including in the Dean’s Office, in the Davis Center, in the Chaplains Office, and in the Health Center.

Sincerely,

Denise K. Buell
Dean of the Faculty and Cluett Professor of Religion
Williams College

1) I am embarrassed that there are people at Williams who would even think about cancelling classes after the election. Who were they? I am pleased that Williams did not. Kudos to Falk/Buell for resisting such stupidity.

2) We need a better history of cancelled classes at Williams, both actual and attempted. The last example was over the Prospect House Hate Hoax in 2011. Can anyone remember the previous cancel-all-classes event? Do we need to go all the way back to the Vietnam War?

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Witch Hunt on the Quad

Glowing review for former Williams professor KC Johnson’s latest book:

In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony found itself in the grip of a moral panic. Seemingly rational people turned on their neighbors, accusing them of witchcraft. The subjective testimony of children and “spectral” evidence, which only the accusers could see, were the basis for the arrest of more than 140 innocent people. Nineteen were hanged.

Today America is in the grip of another moral panic. We’re not afraid of witches but rapists, whom we are told lurk at our nation’s colleges in numbers that render the quad a more dangerous environment for women than downtown Detroit. In “The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities,” KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. dismantle this myth of a campus rape crisis and show how, with alarming frequency, colleges mistreat students accused of assault by failing to allow them any meaningful opportunity to prove their innocence.

At the same time that activists are expanding the definition of sexual assault, university disciplinary committees are systematically depriving accused students of basic due process protections. At the directive of the Department of Education, many campus tribunals today assign blame if there is a 51% chance that the accuser is telling the truth (the “preponderance of the evidence” standard). Many schools do not allow the accused to cross-examine their accusers. Some refuse to allow accused students legal representation and deny them the opportunity to present exculpatory evidence or witnesses in their defense.

According to the authors, Mr. McLeod is one of more than 100 students who are currently suing their former colleges or universities for wrongly punishing them for sexual misconduct. They recount so many examples that at times the book feels like the movie “Groundhog Day” and the reader soon forgets whether he is reading about a case out of Amherst or Michigan or Yale or USC—to name just a few of the many schools at which miscarriages of justice have occurred.

Unlike in Salem, where there were no witches, there are indeed too many instances of rape on campus. But as Messrs. Johnson and Taylor show powerfully, the current system has its own victims and ultimately undermines the credibility of actual rape survivors whose cases belong in court, not in Kafkaesque administrative tribunals.

Exactly right. Should we be pleased or sad that the Safety Dance court case happened too late for Williams to be featured in the book?

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Faculty Organizes Against DeVos

A faculty friend passed along this e-mail:

From: Karen Swann
Date: Fri, Jan 27, 2017 at 8:54 AM
Subject: Williams Opposes Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary

Dear all,

Some Williams faculty have drafted a letter asking President Falk to issue a public statement in opposition to Betsy DeVos’s appointment as US Education Secretary. Apologies if you have already been asked to sign. (There are over 260 signatures so far.) If you would like to sign, please use the link below to do so, and please feel free to send it on to others in the Williams community. The confirmation hearing is this coming Tuesday, so it is important to proceed quickly.

Falk should decline to issue such a statement. The President of Williams is a non-partisan position. He, acting ex-officio, should no more take a stand on a cabinet nominee than he should speak out in favor a specific contestant for Miss America. Predictions in what Falk will do?

The actual letter is absurd in its extremism.

We the undersigned members of the Williams community urge you to make a public statement on behalf of Williams College students, faculty, alumni, staff, and Board of Trustees opposing the appointment of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Education Secretary.

Mrs. DeVos refuses to support federal policies regarding educational systems that receive public funding. Especially concerning is Mrs. DeVos’s devaluation of Title IX and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which ensure that all students’ educational experiences are free of discrimination that impedes learning. Mrs. DeVos’s proposed policies, to the extent that she has managed to articulate them, will gut public education at every level, and further widen the preparation gap and achievement disparities we work every day to remedy for our students. Let us be clear: school choice and deregulation are tantamount to resegregation, and will inflict the most harm on students in already underfunded areas with the least resources for mobility. As educators, our highest priority is the well being and intellectual growth of our students. Every one of Mrs. DeVos’s answers in her confirmation hearing flew in the face of these values. She is unqualified to hold any office in connection with education.

The vote on DeVos is currently scheduled to take place this coming Tuesday, January 31 at 10 AM. This is the time to stand up and make our values known. As a private, not-for-profit institution in an imperfect system of higher education, we have a responsibility to defend and protect the right to free, equally funded, high quality K-12 public education for every resident of every county in the nation. Please stand with us in courage and commitment to help block this nomination and galvanize educators throughout the country. If we do not speak now, our students will suffer for years to come.

There are many reasons to oppose DeVos. One could — and I hope that Williams faculty would — make the argument against her soberly. This letter isn’t that. It is so sloppy that I am too bored to fisk it.

However! It would be great if Williams hosted a debate between Professor Swann and supporters of DeVos, someone like Mike Needham ’04 or William Bennett ’65. Or is that the sort of uncomfortable learning that Williams faculty have grown tired of?

UPDATE: Perhaps more importantly, the Williams President (and/or faculty when speaking as a group) should save their fire power for something that truly matters to Williams students, like the travel ban. That’s important! But by yelping about every Republican thing that happens — and DeVos is nothing if not a standard Republican nominee — people like Professor Karen Swann make it less likely that we will take them seriously on a topic (the travel ban) which deeply affects some of their students and colleagues.

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1998 Letter to Senate Finance Committee

Here (pdf) is a copy of the 1998 letter from President Schapiro to the Senate Finance Committee. Many thanks to the wonderful Mary Detloff for tracking down a copy. We first discussed this document almost nine years ago.

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Merely Peripheral Interlocutors

Professor LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant writes in the New York Times:

Attending the “Women’s March on Washington” has not once crossed my mind. I could conjure up a multitude of reasons why, but will raise what I consider to be most significant: In this event black women are merely peripheral interlocutors for what are supposed to be women’s rights and human rights writ large. There is a long history of black women being overlooked by, excluded from and co-opted into events that profess to be for the benefit of all women but that at their core almost exclusively benefit middle class, straight, white women (á la All the Women Are White).

Black women have also faced the repercussions of another egregious omission where they are asked to put their own political, economic and educational needs aside for the benefit of black men. Here, one might take a behind-the-scenes look at the famous 1963 March on Washington (from which this most recent event’s titular appropriation occurs). As Ashley Farmer notes, “despite their critical roles in the infrastructure, logistics and planning … leadership marginalized black women’s voices and subsumed their gendered political priorities under the banner of civil rights” (á la All the Blacks Are Men).

Considering the real-life wage disparities, limited access to health care, heightened state of poverty, et cetera that affect black women disproportionately, I cannot over-emphasize Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “intersectionality,” a term which is never merely semantics. This march alerts my suspicions like a spidey sense. And, that many young black women who are on Facebook (the March’s primary organizing platform) every single day are either ambivalent or utterly unfamiliar with this event confirms my suspicions.

As I have previously written, the sense of betrayal white women have expressed in the post-election season is at best disingenuous, since we cannot say enough about the ways they turned out at the polls. The impetus of this march — Donald Trump’s election to the office of president of the United States — seems too little too late. So do not look for me at the Women’s March on Washington 2017, especially since no one was looking for me anyway.

1) Always good to see a Williams professor writing in the New York Times. The more that our faculty appear in prestige publications, the higher the quality of applicant we will attract and enroll.

2) Any professors/students/alumni going to the march? Tell us about it!

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