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Against Racialism, 3

The leading public intellectual on the Williams faculty, political science Professor Darel Paul, takes on antiracism in First Things. Let’s spend three days on the details. When will Woke Williams come for Paul?

Professor Paul concludes:

Since the 1960s, America’s elite has legitimized its status on the grounds of superior merit demonstrated through success in elite schools, elite universities, elite corporations, and elite professions. Yet the goodness of meritocracy lies not in its members’ SAT scores but in the degree to which the talents of the talented are harnessed for the common good. On this measure, American meritocrats’ track record is poor indeed. They lead, govern, manage, and mold a country that is increasingly rancorous, divided, and decadent. Their policy prescriptions respond little if at all to changing contexts. Twenty years ago, columnist David Brooks observed that America’s “organization kids,” the country’s elites-in-formation, seemed to lack a moral gravity, an interest in virtue, a project of character. This spiritual v­acuum helps explain why a class whose power and prestige are founded on claims to expertise has embraced a faith so threadbare in both logic and evidence. Everything from the popularity of the New York Times’s 1619 Project, to the toleration (and often support) of iconoclastic mobs, to the 1.6 million total sold copies of White Fragility shows the death of elite moral self-confidence. They no longer believe in their history, their institutions, their culture, or themselves.

Antiracists reply that this elite malaise is well-earned. At least here, we can agree. Yet antiracism offers no positive response to this illegitimacy. Rather than solve problems, antiracism proposes to aggravate them by defunding the police, abolishing prisons, and legalizing drugs and prostitution. Rather than bind the country’s wounds, antiracism inflames them through racialism. In place of a common moral project, antiracism proposes the glove of moral relativism over the fist of Ibram Kendi’s federal Department of Antiracism—

comprised of formally trained experts on racism . . . empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.

America not only needs better than antiracist “equity.” It deserves better. It deserves a project of transcendence, of moral and material uplift based on neither racist nor antiracist but non-racialist values, which elevate the human spirit and human society. Beauty, Goodness, and Truth presume a distinction between the higher and the lower. They instruct us to reach for the higher and promise us both individual and collective fulfillment when we do. Rather than destroy norms and standards, we should embrace authoritative values and distribute them widely. All should be able to enjoy beauty in public spaces. All should be able to support a family with dignity and contribute to a community through productive labor. All should have the right to discover what is true through education, an edifying media, and strong religious and fraternal institutions. An elite that brought America such goods would be one worthy of the name.

I would pay big money to watch Paul debate any Woke member of the Williams faculty, but especially an intellectual (?) like Joy James. Call up Pay-Per-View!

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Against Racialism, 2

The leading public intellectual on the Williams faculty, political science Professor Darel Paul, takes on antiracism in First Things. Let’s spend three days on the details. When will Woke Williams come for Paul?

Continuing his evisceration of the arguments (?) of Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be An Antiracist, Paul writes:

Kendi condemns “any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way.” Equal esteem is his true “policy” goal.

Kendi’s embrace of intersectionality extends “antiracist” sentiment to color, ethnicity, class, sex, sexuality, and gender identity. This extension forces him into any number of howlers. To be antiracist requires one to see as sexist “notions of men as more naturally dangerous than women” and to accept that “men can authentically perform femininity as effectively as women can authentically perform masculinity.” On matters of crime, Kendi is particularly militant in his relativism. He laments that

people steer away from and stigmatize Black neighborhoods as crime-ridden streets where you might have your wallet stolen. But they aspire to move into up-scale White neighborhoods, home to white-collar criminals and “banksters” . . . who might steal your life savings.

He marvels that

Black people seemed to be more worried about other Black people killing them in drug wars or robberies by the thousands each year than about the cancers, heart diseases, and respiratory diseases killing them by the hundreds of thousands each year.

To teach standard English in schools, to speak of an academic achievement gap, to promote marriage over single parenthood, and to speak of assimilation is necessarily intertwined with judgment, and thus by Kendi’s lights inherently racist. To suggest that any group makes any independent contribution to its own successes and failures threatens the antiracist edifice and thus is placed under taboo.

What would happen to a junior faculty members at Williams who mentioned the (true!) fact that the average SAT scores for Asian-Americans at Williams is more than 200 points higher than the average SAT for Afican-Americans?

Kendi hopes to comfort the afflicted by afflicting those he deems comfortable. In December 2019, New York Times columnist Bret ­Stephens published a controversial op-ed suggesting that some combination of culture, history, and perhaps even genes accounts for the remarkable track record of “Jewish brilliance.” Kendi offered a vicious response. He condemned, by tweet, “Bret’s bigoted op-ed that places Jews at the top of an intellectual hierarchy” and further suggested that any attempt to measure and rank intelligence was genocidal. But consider the alternative, antiracist explanation of Jewish success in America: If “internal” or “cultural” qualities are forbidden from playing any role because all “racial groups are equals,” then the cause can be nothing other than Jewish political power and economic exploitation through racial capitalism. If Jews as a group are no more intelligent or creative or hardworking than any other group, they must instead be masters of “­racist power.” Ponder that “antiracist” teaching.

Antiracists are racialists. They believe that race is the prime matter of human society, the font of social and political identity, and the origin of political struggle. Their belief in the centrality of race dedicates them to heightening racial identity and urging that every social interaction be viewed first and foremost through the lens of race. Antiracists are particularly concerned to convince whites, far and away the least race-conscious group in ­America, to understand themselves racially. The ubiquity of antiracist terminology and slang today—“whiteness,” “white privilege,” “white supremacy,” “white nationalism,” “white fragility,” “white tears,” even “Karen” as a racial slur—shows that they are succeeding.

Though white Americans in general have not embraced this assigned identity, liberal white Americans and the educational, corporate, governmental, media, social, and cultural institutions they control certainly have. It is ironic to see a group that throughout the Obama years praised itself for its enlightened post-racial attitudes now embracing racialism. It is even more ironic to see liberal white managers and professionals marching under the banner of racial equity, a spectacle of the rich condemning riches and the powerful condemning power. More, it is the spectacle of a social class denouncing its own defining class norms and values, habits and modes of thought, as the oppressive culture of “whiteness.”

Indeed. Any forecasts for what changes this movement will bring to Williams?

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Against Racialism, 1

The leading public intellectual on the Williams faculty, political science Professor Darel Paul, takes on antiracism in First Things. Let’s spend three days on the details. When will Woke Williams come for Paul?

Paul starts:

Having fallen away from both Christianity and American civil religion, liberals in the United States are looking for something to believe in. The death of George Floyd on May 25 occasioned a religious awakening. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Americans took to the streets by the tens and hundreds of thousands to demand police reform and more. They painted “Black Lives Matter” on city streets and blanketed neighborhoods with BLM yard signs. Universities issued statements of solidarity with Black Lives Matter and pledged anew to “do the work” of racial justice. The country’s leading newspapers and magazines purged dissenters and even those who tolerated the dissent of others. “Antiracism” became liberal America’s new fighting faith.

Indeed, and no less so at Williams. Or perhaps Williams is less woke than places like Amherst. Opinions? And, if so, do we attribute that more to institutional history — Williams has always been more “conservative” than peer schools — or do the great (wo)man theory of history: Maud is less woke that Biddy Martin? There is a great (and offensive!) blog post to be written on that comparison. Who will write it?

Many have compared antiracism to religion. This is not just an analogy. Antiracism has its own mythology, professions of belief, liturgies of purgation, and promises of redemption. Since it is a political religion, the redemption it promises is this-worldly and accomplished through the state. It entails strict equality of material and social outcomes across racial groups. Yet its instruments are race consciousness, racialized spaces on campus, preferential funding of public schools by race, racial hiring quotas, a Black New Deal, and the elimination of universal norms and standards. Colorblind policies, assimilation to middle-class values, and “not racist” personal beliefs are proscribed. Americans could be forgiven for confusing antiracism with racism itself.

Through its short and turbulent fame, antiracism has already caused considerable harm. Its moral imagination is stunted. Its sense of justice is racialist and divisive. Its policies are recklessly utopian. Americans need better, and deserve better, than antiracism.

Incipient antiracism tried to destroy Storytime at Williams and may be in the process of ruining the JA/entryway system.

The first precept of antiracism is that “racial groups are equals and none needs developing.” This is not a socioeconomic observation. Some racial groups are indeed wealthier, healthier, more educated—in short, more “developed”—than others. One may be tempted to read Kendi here as simply asserting a common humanity. That would be a grave misreading. The heart of antiracism is multiculturalist relativism fused with racialism. Kendi’s real meaning here is that every race is culturally equal, for “to be antiracist is to reject cultural standards and level cultural difference.” Yet if every ­race-culture is equal to every other race-culture, why are the races—which Kendi also calls “racialized cultural groups”—materially and socially unequal? Enter the second precept of antiracism (best stated in Kendi’s earlier volume, Stamped From the Beginning): “Racial discrimination is the sole cause of racial disparities in this country and in the world at large.” Kendi does not even try to prove this claim. Why would he? Though expressed as a sociological observation, it is in fact a dogmatic assertion introduced to save Kendi’s racialized multiculturalism from untoward conclusions. If the Light of Truth (race equity) cannot shine in the world, some Cloud of Darkness (“racist ­power”) must be obscuring it. QED.

Kendi asserts that these six “races” are hierarchically organized in America, with whites on top. He freely uses terms such as “White power,” claims that “the American body is the White body,” and insists that in America “it is a racial crime to be yourself if you are not White.” Yet he never offers a moment of careful sifting and ­weighing of racial hierarchy in America. His evidence, such as it is, consists of simple descriptive data and citations of cherry-­picked studies. Kendi’s reader is never told that Asians as a whole surpass non-Hispanic whites on any number of socio-economic measures. They enjoy the highest incomes, the most educational attainment, the best health, the most stable families, the lowest arrest and incarceration rates. Nor would the reader appreciate the significant internal diversity within each “race,” precisely along lines of inequality. This is true even within Kendi’s own racial group. Today, some one in five black Americans are not the descendants of American slaves, and income inequality among blacks far exceeds that among non-Hispanic whites.

You can be certain that way more than 1/5 Black students at Williams are not the descendants of American slaves. There is an amazing Record article to be written on that topic! I bet that a majority, even the vast majority, of Black students at Williams do not have two parents descended from American slaves.

UPDATE: A reader sends in these links to two excellent New York Times articles on the topic.

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Scholar Strike

A reader sent in this image, but I can’t seem to access the page. Can someone provide a link? Is it blocked for those outside campus?

Key question: Does a strike imply that Professor Dorothy Wang will not be bad-mouthing Professor Katie Kent ’88 and the rest of the English Department for two days? Or are the burdens of Woke WOC never-ending?

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Greatest Crisis in the Republic Since 1860

Professor Darel Paul is done with the sugar-coating:

If Paul really believes this, what would you recommend he start doing? First, buy guns. When the mob comes to your door, force is the only language they will understand. Second, prepare for a major breakdown in society. You don’t have to go full-prepper, but the Mormon-practice of having a year of food on hand makes sense if you think there is even a 5% chance of disaster. Third, start thinking seriously about exit options. If another Civil War comes, you want to be somewhere else, ideally English-speaking.

Am I as worried as Paul? No. But he knows history much better than I do . . .

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That Country is No More

Professor Darel Paul’s twitter feed is getting dark:

Are you more or less optimistic than Paul?

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Open The Schools

From Professor Darel Paul:

From iBerkshires:

Two months of input and advice from Mount Greylock’s working groups looking at the reopening of school were undone in four hours of discussion by the School Committee on Thursday night.
On a 6-1 vote, the committee directed interim superintendent Robert Putnam to submit to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education a radically different plan for the start of the year that moves more children into the school building more quickly than the administration was recommending.

Subject to approval by DESE and, not insignificantly, collective bargaining with the district’s unions, there will be no two-week period of fully remote learning as Putnam was proposing.

Putnam went into Thursday’s meeting with plans based on input from groups established in the spring and summer by him and his predecessor with the goal of getting the School Committee’s blessing for the plan he has to submit to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Friday.

Putnam laid out a plan largely like the one he presented in a virtual town hall on Tuesday evening and told the School Committee he was looking for guidance.

He got it.

[Williams Professor and School Board member] Steven Miller immediately concurred.

“I agree strongly with Regina,” Miller said. “One possibility is, can we have classrooms take staggered breaks so they’re not sitting in the room all the time. … This is a creative community where we can come up with answers. Can we eat lunch outside the classroom, especially in September on good days.

“There are a lot of families which were really hurt with how things happened [when schools closed in March], and whose family situation is not going to work with two days a week or not going to work with half days. There are a lot of families that need full day. I think at a bare minimum, we should be looking at how to get K through 4, if not K through 6, back to full days Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. And see, from that, what do we need to make it happen. What resources do you need? What are the obstacles that are preventing us from doing this?”

Eventually, Miller made a motion that Putnam submit plans to DESE that call for the district’s K-6 pupils to be in school all day, four days per week and for the students at Mount Greylock to be in school two days a week with half in the building on Mondays and Thursdays and the other half on Tuesdays and Fridays — all starting on Sept. 16, the first day of the school year. And at the middle/high school, the School Committee voted, “the plan will be to go to full four-day instruction for any student who wants it … starting Oct. 1.”

That was the plan the School Committee endorsed, 6-1.

How will the union reply? I don’t know nearly as much about local Williamstown politics as I should.

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Sandstrom Update, 5

Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom sent students an update on the fall semester. Let’s spend a week going through it.

Final highlights:

It is crucial for students to feel comfortable communicating to each other about following health and safety guidelines. Please speak up (respectfully) when you see someone falling short of our expectations. Similarly, please be gracious and understanding if somebody lets you know that they are concerned about your behavior. We will fail even before we have a chance to succeed if students don’t hold each other accountable and treat each other with respect. We expect the majority of monitoring and corrective behavior to happen among students.

This seems a fantasy to me. First, a central message of our social justice friends at Williams for the last decade or more has been the horrible curse of white privilege. Given that history, do you really expect a white student to tell a black student — excuse me, a Black! student — that she is doing something wrong? I don’t! Second, students don’t like to snitch on each other. Third, it is becoming rapidly clear to healthy college age students that the virus poses no meaningful risk to them.

Williams has contracted with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard for our testing kits and processing. Williams will staff our testing site. The Broad test is a RT-PCR test that is a high throughput version of the CDC 2019-nCoV Realtime RT-PCR test. This test uses nasal swabs in the lower nasal cavity (anterior nares swabs) and differs from the more uncomfortable test involving a swab placed deeply into the upper nasal cavity (nasopharyngeal swabs).

I think this is a good choice. Broad has an excellent reputation.

We are holding all students accountable to our public health guidelines — this includes students living in our residence halls, as well as students who are enrolled in person and living nearby in off-campus housing. While I fully expect students to respect these rules and show care for each other, it is important to know that students who egregiously violate our health requirements can expect to be immediately transitioned from in-person to remote enrollment, and will be required to leave campus. Such violations might also lead to a formal disciplinary process that could result in probation, suspension, or expulsion. Please know that we will be strictly enforcing our policy in order to protect the campus community.

Good luck.

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Sandstrom Update, 4

Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom sent students an update on the fall semester. Let’s spend a week going through it.

Upon arrival, students will be quarantined in their dorm rooms until they have received TWO negative Covid-19 tests. Initial quarantine is expected to last a minimum of five to seven days. During this time, students will only be allowed to leave their rooms to use the bathroom and to go to the testing site for their second test. All meals will be delivered into a central dorm location for pick up during quarantine.

In addition to the initial in-room quarantine, students will be required to remain on campus at least through September. This means that going to Stop and Shop, Walmart, and other off-campus destinations—even within Berkshire County—will be prohibited during this time, although students may exercise or hike with appropriate social distancing in the surrounding area.

What is the scientific basis for these procedures? Honest question! If the science — excuse me, the Science! — is clear, then why do different schools have such different procedures? Answer: Virus Theatre.

During initial quarantine, students will be restricted to their rooms, and movement will be restricted to bathroom access, picking up meals delivered to the dorm, and going to the testing site. Bathrooms will be stocked with cleaning supplies so that students can sanitize between each use. Students must wear a face covering when they exit their rooms for these purposes.

Perhaps — perhaps! — this might work if students were initially placed in special quarantine dorms and then, after the 5 to 7 days — and that is a pretty big range — moved to their permanent dorm with their friends. But I doubt this is the plan. They are just going to place people in the Carter House room and expect them not to come out of their rooms and chat with their friends for a week? Yeah, right!

Varsity athletes will not be engaged in any team activity (formal or informal) until the week of September 14th. At that point, coaches will work with athletes on approved outdoor training activities.

Why the hate on varsity athletes? The JV soccer team can play games all day long, but the varsity players can’t even look at each other? Club baseball can have practice every afternoon but varsity baseball can’t? What nonsense!

If activity X is a problem, then ban activity X for all students. If X is not a problem, then it does not matter if the people participating in X are varsity athletes or noners.

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Sandstrom Update, 3

Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom sent students an update on the fall semester. Let’s spend a week going through it.

An increasing number of faculty members (more than half so far) have informed us that they plan to teach remotely this fall. Some have personal risk factors to consider, and many with children are contending with the possibility of disruptions at local preschools and K-12 school systems.

1) What is the latest on local pre-schools? First, we have the College’s own Children’s Center. Will it be open? I hope so. Small children are at essentially zero risk of being injured by CV-19. Documented cases of children transmitting the virus to adults are also quite rare. Second, there are other childcare facilities in Williamstown. What are their plans?

2) Any updates on Williamstown Elementary School (WES)? In a world in which every elementary school in New York State is open, how can it make sense to close WES, just three miles from the border? Again, the risk to children is minuscule.

3) Updates on Mt Greylock Regional High School (MGRHS)? This is, admittedly, a harder case. But, fortunately, there is no reason why Williams faculty need to stay home to baby sit a high school student who has to learn remotely because the local school board isn’t smart enough to listen to Steve Miller.

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Sandstrom Update, 2

Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom sent students an update on the fall semester. Let’s spend a week going through it.

An increasing number of faculty members (more than half so far) have informed us that they plan to teach remotely this fall. Some faculty may decide to switch from hybrid teaching to a remote-only option after pre-registration—or even after the semester begins—so please be aware that course modalities are subject to change, and students may find that some or all of their courses are remote.

We discussed this last month, but I want more details. Recall:

Some faculty members have raised the concern that requiring hybrid courses might discourage faculty from choosing to teach in person. “My strong preference all along has been to teach in-person,” Associate Professor of Political Science Justin Crowe ’03 said. “But the insistence on hybridity for all courses has me resigned to teaching remotely.” He explained, “To have the College compound the extra health risk of in-person teaching with extra workload — and the hybridity requirements are a substantial amount of extra work for anyone who chooses to teach in person — is disappointing.”

Though Crowe acknowledged that some students would need to continue remote learning regardless, he said the presence of other faculty who were already planning to teach remotely would provide “a decent number of courses for remote students to take.” Crowe added, “On an institutional level, I know there are lots of moving parts and conflicting interests, but it seems odd, given the dissatisfaction most students experienced with remote instruction, that we’d bring students back to campus and yet disincentivize faculty from teaching them in person.”

Key questions:

What portion of the 50% of faculty teaching remotely would still be teaching remotely if all students were on campus?

I realize that some (how many?) faculty have health concerns. Others may like Zoom teaching, for whatever reason. My sense is that there are very few faculty like that. In other words, I bet that 90%+ of Williams faculty would be teaching in person if students were on campus.

How are the faculty teaching in person planning to deal with students who want to take their class but who are enrolled remotely?

I have no idea how one would do this, at least in large classes. Maybe split the class into two sections: one in person and one on Zoom? Honestly curious to see how Williams handles this.

What portion of the 50% of faculty teaching remotely are doing so because of the incentive effect Crowe describes?

There is a great Record article to be written on these topics. Talk to some faculty! They are interesting people with lots to say!

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Sandstrom Update, 1

Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom sent students an update on the fall semester. Let’s spend a week going through it.

Entire message is below the break. Please mention in the comments any particular section you would like us to focus on.

Sandstrom begins:

Dear Students,

Since late June when we announced our campus plans for the fall, the national context with regard to Covid-19 has worsened considerably. While we are still hoping to open the campus as planned, shifting national conditions as well as updated regulations by the governor of Massachusetts have required us to tighten our rules. This communication may seem unusually strict for Williams. However, all of the measures outlined here are designed to protect the safety of our community, and we look forward to a time when they are no longer necessary.

Hmm. My take is that the things have gotten much better in the “national context” since June, not worse. We knew a great deal in June. In particular, it was already obvious that CV-19 was endemic throughout the US and that our political system lacked the will/capacity to stop it. (And this is not just a dig against Trump. Democrat-controlled California has been no better than the Federal Government.) The virus was going to virus. It was, in June, unstoppable.

What we have learned since then, however, is that CV-19 may not be nearly as deadly as we feared in June. In particular, we now know that the risk to college-aged students is very low, probably less dangerous than, say, taking a cross-country car trip. That is good news! We also know that herd immunity may be much lower than we thought in June. Indeed, states like Texas and Florida seem to be coming out of the other side of the pandemic. It would not surprise me to see full college football stadiums in those states come November.

Are you more or less optimistic than you were in June?

Read more

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Miller and others advocate for opening local schools

Full story here.

Some Key Excerpts:

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The chair of the Mount Greylock School Committee’s Education Subcommittee on Tuesday repeatedly pressed the district’s interim superintendent to develop benchmarks that could be met in order to allow a return to full in-person instruction…

Several times during a more than two-hour virtual meeting, Steven Miller reiterated his contention that the Lanesborough-Williamstown district is uniquely situated to move to full, in-person instruction…

“We are at the point where we are having very few infections found daily in Berkshire County,” Miller said. “We are in a rural area. This is the time to act on something like this, to get our kids back to school. I would like to see every kid back at least two days a week. For the elementary schools, I would like to see them back five days a week as soon as we can.”
*****
We are major advocates of in-person, obviously,” said John Skavlem, a former member of the defunct Williamstown Elementary School Committee who joined the meeting alongside his wife…
“Adolescence is hard enough without having all of these ramifications of the pandemic on top of it. As … others in the community have expressed their concern about the amount of mental and social consequences — mental health, depression, things like suicidality — I didn’t know that was a word until [recently] — that they’re hearing in our community is really, really concerning. That’s before I go into things like kids with idle time and drug and alcohol abuse at that age.
“These are really significant consequences. Those are lifetime consequences.”

************

Later, Hammann pointed out that while Berkshire County currently is in a good position with respect to COVID-19 diagnoses, that could change “with the influx of tourists.” Williamstown Elementary School teacher Maureen Andersen pointed out that Williams College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts both will see the return of students at the end of the month.
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How can local government advocate for keeping school children home indefinitely while at the same time accept risk for the return of Williams? That makes no practical sense.  There is no such thing as zero risk in life.
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Accepting risk for education of the affluent while banishing poor rural children to ignorance is an ugly position.
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Without benchmarks, what is the policy? Miller is correct to pressure his peers and others to come up with specifics.
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Sheehy ’75 Interview, 5

Former Williams Director of Athletics Harry Sheehy ’75 gave a too-honest interview to The Dartmouth last month. We are (mostly!) fans of Sheehy and were sad when he left Williams for Dartmouth a decade ago. (Relevant discussions here, here, here, here and here.) Sheehy is now very much in the tell-it-like-it-is stage of his career, so this interview is filled with gems. Let’s discuss for a week.

The Dartmouth: Could you discuss further why, if alumni come in with donations to provide significant funding to these teams, it would not be possible to keep them?

Sheehy: First of all, I don’t think the alums have an understanding of what it would actually take. For example, in ’02-’03, when we eliminated swimming, the alumni stepped up to save the program, but they didn’t endow the program. So some of the articles have been wrong. They’ll say, “Well, the alumni stepped up to endow the team back in ’03.” Well, they didn’t. What they gave was $2 million of current use money. That means the budget every year came out of that, and that was a spend-down account. It wasn’t spinning off any income because $2 million spins off about $80,000 a year. That doesn’t pay for anything. That number has to be five times bigger to be an endowment.

Good stuff! Sheehy should be praised for his transparency. Too many members of the Dartmouth (and Williams) community don’t really understand how the money works.

A lot of people wrote in and said, “With a $5 billion endowment, how could you possibly do this?” An incredibly high percentage of our endowment are restricted funds. It’s not like our $5 billion spins off $250 million that the College can spend any way it wants. That’s not how endowments work. People give money to endow things with an expressed purpose. For example, a lot of our coaching positions are endowed. That’s what that money is used for. It can’t go to pay travel. It can’t go to pay for equipment. It has to go for the expressed purpose of the endowment. When you endow financial aid, you can’t take that money and spend it on our athletics. The endowment argument is a little bit specious because I just don’t think people understand how endowments work.

This is garbage (with a pinch of truth), and I suspect that Sheehy knows it. “Restricted funds” are every administrator’s favorite excuse for doing what he wants.

First, Buddy Teevens is the The Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach. This is an endowed position, making use of “restricted funds.” But what would happen if Dartmouth dropped football? Would that money vanish? Would Dartmouth, without a football program, be forced to hire a coach forever? Of course not! Dartmouth, and every elite college, has moved money around from its “intended” purpose ever since the first donor left town.

Second, money is fungible. How often do we have to point this out? Every annual flow of restricted funds is always less, by design, then its intended use. If Dartmouth spends $50 million on financial aid, it does not matter if “restricted funds” for that purpose total $20 or $30 million or any number less than $50 million. The total has to come from somewhere. The discretion comes in all the money which tops off the various buckets. Dartmouth can move that money around at will, as Sheehy well knows.

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Sheehy ’75 Interview, 4

Former Williams Director of Athletics Harry Sheehy ’75 gave a too-honest interview to The Dartmouth last month. We are (mostly!) fans of Sheehy and were sad when he left Williams for Dartmouth a decade ago. (Relevant discussions here, here, here, here and here.) Sheehy is now very much in the tell-it-like-it-is stage of his career, so this interview is filled with gems. Let’s discuss for a week.

The Dartmouth: President Hanlon offered a series of athletic alternatives for varsity athletes whose sports were cut. Do you expect that students will pursue the opportunities he suggested?

Sheehy: My heart says I’d love to see them get a Dartmouth degree, but frankly, I know what I would have done as a student-athlete. I would have looked for another opportunity, but not all of them will. To me — and this is just me, personally — having those other opportunities rings a little bit hollow.

Sheehy tells it like it is!

Question: Why are the only two choices available to Dartmouth so extreme? Sheehy acts like there are only two possibilities: full scale Division I participation (with all the admissions preferences which that requires) or club sports which receive no coaching support. Why not simply downgrade some teams from Division I to Division III, along with a decrease in travel/coaching/equipment costs? Dartmouth could (easily?) field a Division III golf program even if it provided no admissions slots and relied on local volunteers to coach.

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Sheehy ’75 Interview, 3

Former Williams Director of Athletics Harry Sheehy ’75 gave a too-honest interview to The Dartmouth last month. We are (mostly!) fans of Sheehy and were sad when he left Williams for Dartmouth a decade ago. (Relevant discussions here, here, here, here and here.) Sheehy is now very much in the tell-it-like-it-is stage of his career, so this interview is filled with gems. Let’s discuss for a week.

Will other elite schools be cutting sports? Sheehy thinks so!

HS: The only one that I talked to personally was the Brown AD, but I will tell you that I know the discussions are going on at other campuses for sure. And I think when Brown and Dartmouth act, you can’t stop those conversations on other campuses. They’re going to happen.

It’s kind of a domino effect.

HS: Yeah, it is, unfortunately. That’s the way it works. I think, when the Ivy League acts on something, that can embolden a whole different group of schools to think about what they’re going to do. As tough as the world is for Dartmouth’s budgets, we’re not nearly as in bad shape as most of the world. A lot of schools’ athletic departments rely much more than we do on revenue generation.

Again, I love Sheehy’s IDGAF attitude, telling us about his private conversation with the Brown DA, hinting that this is where the Ivy League is heading. Note, however, how Brown spun its cuts:

Through the new initiative, the University will maintain its current operational budget for varsity athletics, with operating funds made available by the reduction in varsity teams being allocated strategically within the Department of Athletics. Brown will continue to recruit the same number of varsity athletes so that rosters can be right-sized, and the smaller number of varsity teams will support stronger recruiting in the admissions process, allowing for deeper talent on each team.

Is Brown telling us the truth? I have my doubts! The reason that sports team X is not good at Brown is not because they don’t recruit enough athletes. The cause is an inability/unwillingness to recruit better athletes. Brown doesn’t need more 1500-SAT but not so good football players. It has enough of those! It needs some guys who can play, but who only scored 1200. Extra slots don’t do anything meaningful.

Anyway, the real question is what this portends for Williams and for the Ivy League.

1) I don’t know, at least with regard to Williams. DA Lisa Melendy has never responded to my emails before. You think she is going to start now? My guess would be that nothing changes at Williams. Then again, I never would have predicted team-cuts at Stanford.

2) Sheehy may be talking out of school, but he is an insider. I doubt that he would spout of about “the Ivy League act[ing] on something” unless there were discussions at the highest level about more Ivy League changes. The most obvious would be for the league to just give up on Division I by dramatically raising admissions standards for athletes and joining NESCAC and similar, less-competitive leagues. Is there really a chance that might happen?

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Sheehy ’75 Interview, 2

Former Williams Director of Athletics Harry Sheehy ’75 gave a too-honest interview to The Dartmouth last month. We are (mostly!) fans of Sheehy and were sad when he left Williams for Dartmouth a decade ago. (Relevant discussions here, here, here, here and here.) Sheehy is now very much in the tell-it-like-it-is stage of his career, so this interview is filled with gems. Let’s discuss for a week.

The key information — which we only know because of Sheehy’s IDGAF attitude — is that this decision was driven “Dartmouth’s goal of decreasing student-athlete admissions by 10 percent.” Relevant quotes:

Because of what President Hanlon desired to have us give back to the admissions process, even without the budget problem, we might very well be sitting here today having done the same thing.

Some people will look at this and go, “Jeez, it’s just one kid a year per team. Or two kids a year.” That’s not the way to look at it. The way to look at it is this is a four-year impact. So at the end of the year, we have between four and eight and 12 less qualified, talented student-athletes on our rosters to compete against teams in our league that have not given that up.

Remember this: With two supported student-athletes a year over four years, that’s eight. That’s more athletes than play in a match. So, they didn’t actually need walk-ons. Let’s say that the teams we eliminated get no slots, no athletic support. Then, what you’ve done is what I just talked about — you’re a NESCAC team. There’s no sense that that would be a Division I student-athlete experience, and there’d be no chance of any relative competitive success. I’m just not willing to create that.

Look, I get it. We’re taking away what I consider to be a potential transformational experience in terms of friendship, competition and growth. But we weren’t willing to create second class citizens in our department that weren’t able to compete on an Ivy League level. That’s what would have happened to half our programs.

But, number two, no matter how much money the alums give, it doesn’t solve our admissions problem. No matter what they give, that 10 percent reduction in admissions slots is still there. And so we would still have to do the same thing if we wanted to maintain a competitive, Division I, Ivy League student-athlete experience. There’s the crux of the decision.

1) The exact numbers are a little hazy to me. Dartmouth undergraduate enrollment is 4,417. There were 110 students on the discontinued teams. Sheehy claimed that this change decreased athlete admissions slots by 10%. So, call it 1,110 total athletes, or about 25% of the student body, meaning about 275 athlete slots in each class. This means that there will be 27 or so extra slots next year.

2) Yesterday, 89’er wrote “Athletics preferences detract from other priorities only to the extent those tips under-perform in other important ways.” No. That’s wrong. Admissions slots are the ultimate zero-sum game. By not admitting those 27 athletes, Dartmouth can fill those slots with non-athletes who fulfill other priorities: Blacks, Legacies, First Generation, Donors, Whatever. Even if every athlete did as well academically (and otherwise) as non-athletes, that fact would not answer the demands from other constituencies.

3) Falk Land wrote:

Then is it about increasing the overall quality of the classes they bring in? If so, then the teams should be cut based on their average GPA, with the academically weakest sports being cut first. I am almost certain this is not what happened, as this was not a mentioned reason and I find it hard to believe that these sports have the lowest average GPAs.

Correct. This change has nothing to do with the average academic quality of athletes, or lack thereof. Dartmouth wanted more students in category X. The only (easy) way to do that is to accept fewer students in category Y.

Sheehy‘s and Dartmouth’s attempts to make it about anything other than that, and outright slandering D3 and NESCAC sports in particular in the process, is laughable.

Agreed. What the hell is wrong with being “a NESCAC team?” Why couldn’t Dartmouth have a golf team which received no admissions slots, which was filled with students who got into Dartmouth purely on the basis of academic excellence? What would be so bad about that? They would play schools in New England at their level. They would try as hard and enjoy their Dartmouth athletic experience every bit as much as the current players do.

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Harry Sheehy Interview, 1

Former Williams Director of Athletics Harry Sheehy ’75 gave a too-honest interview to The Dartmouth last month. We are (mostly!) fans of Sheehy and were sad when he left Williams for Dartmouth a decade ago. (Relevant discussions here, here, here, here and here.) Sheehy is now very much in the tell-it-like-it-is stage of his career, so this interview is filled with gems. Let’s discuss for a week.

The biggest surprise in elite college athletics has been the decision by several schools to cut sports teams.

Last week, both the Ivy League and the Dartmouth administration made crucial announcements regarding the short- and long-term future of Dartmouth athletics. On Wednesday, the league announced the cancellation of all fall sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The next day, the College announced that five varsity sports — men’s and women’s golf, men’s lightweight rowing and men’s and women’s swimming and diving — would be eliminated.

Similar cuts were made at Brown and Stanford. Neither school admitted, however, the real reason for the cuts. Sheehy pulls aside the veil.

The Dartmouth spoke with athletics director Harry Sheehy for an extended one-on-one interview on Monday. During the interview, Sheehy said that College President Phil Hanlon first notified him that he was considering reducing the number of student-athletes last fall due to admissions priorities.

See below for the details. Even without CV-19, Dartmouth would have made these cuts. They, or at least President Hanlon, has decided that Dartmouth wants fewer admissions slots for athletes.

1) I never would have predicted this. Did anyone? For almost two decades, I have argued that Williams should reduce the preferences given to athletes, but I have never wanted to cut sports.

2) Will Williams do the same? I don’t think so . . . But I never would have thought that Dartmouth or Stanford would either. They are just (?) as sporty as Williams . . .

3) Williams should do the same thing that Morty did almost 20 years ago: Reduce (again) the preferences given to athletes, but still give coaches their slots. That is, the women’s golf coach Tomas Adalsteinsson, for example, still gets his two slots a year. He can pick whoever he wants, as long as they are Academic Rating 1s. You can improve the quality of the class without cutting sports. Just raise the standards. Coaches will always find the best players that they can. They will whine and complain, just as they did after the changes following the MacDonald Report in 2002.

Entire article below the break.=
Read more

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A major flaw in a critique of leadership

At this moment I enter the tragicomedy briefly. I left Williams two months before all of this took off. Before I knew I’d be departing, I chaired a committee responsible for managing Hollander Hall, the very building afflicted by this outrage. After I left, Prof. Keith McPartland took charge in my place. This landed him in a hard spot, because it turns out that that pile of nonsense violates state fire safety regulations, and is probably also contrary to accessibility standards. Staff, however, were presumably too terrified to touch any of it, lest they get fired. So McPartland did what I hope to god I would’ve had the courage to do, had it been me. Because he enjoyed some measure of protection as a tenured professor, he consulted with campus security and then boxed up the offending portions of the memorial himself. As he did this, students confronted him, but he carried on. That night, faculty offices were papered with posters denouncing McPartland as a racist for his trouble.

Maud Mandel, the weak and indecisive president that Williams so richly deserves, then did exactly what you might expect. She took to her email and promptly denounced her committee chair for doing his job.

 

Does anyone else see the major flaw in this critique of Mandel’s performance on this issue? It jumps off the page. Knibbs’ should be challenged on this particular point, as well as the logic (critical of Mandel) that follows.

McPartland had an obligation to tell President Mandel what he was doing so she was not blindsided by his action. The climate was such that this decision he had to make was going to get to the president’s desk. Going rogue on it was a mistake.

That’s not to say McPartland deserved what happened afterwards, but middle managers should understand structure and issues enough to know when to inform higher managers of something controversial.

 

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Less Certainty

Professor Steven Sheppard writes:

Please note this report.

Perhaps those who are not epidemiologists or health care professionals should speak with less certainty.

This is more or less the exact opposite of the lesson of a good liberal arts education. What are they teaching at Williams? Back in the day, economics professors like Morty Schapiro, Cappy Hill, Mike McPherson and Steve Lewis taught us, and showed us, that it was possible for someone with a Williams education to have an informed opinion about topics of the day. Of course, we should read the experts, but not blindly. We should be open-minded, but not naive, skeptical but not dogmatic. Life is never certain, but the magic of Williams was that it made us better citizens, better able to form and express opinions on topics like: Should our local public schools be open this fall. Is that not what Professor Sheppard teaches his students today? Keep in mind:

1) For any non-trivial topic, the experts will disagree. Does Sheppard really believe that experts are unified about whether or not public schools should be open? If so, they why are they open right now in (many) countries around the world?

2) Decisions must be made. Williamstown Elementary School will either be open or closed come September. There are costs and benefits for either option. There is uncertainty. But none of those complexities will allow us to avoid the choice. What will Sheppard recommend? What will he say to his fellow Williamstown residents, like Professor Steven Miller, who disagree?

3) How delicious! Sheppard is busy telling us that we should write with “less certainty” when he himself misinterpreted the link he provides as evidence! Ha!

EphBlog would love to hear more from local residents on this topic! Please tell us the state of the debate.

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Williamstown Public Schools

From iBerkshires:

The Baker administration is pushing school districts to form plans that allow all students to return to the classroom, according to comments from the interim superintendent of the Mount Gryelock Regional School District.

Speaking on Tuesday to the School Committee’s Education Subcommittee, Robert Putnam said that while districts are required to create plans for the fall that would allow remote learning or a hybrid of remote and in-person instruction, the message from Boston is that the goal is to get students back in school buildings.

“The commissioner of education, Commissioner [Jeffrey] Riley, basically, he’s prioritized getting kids back into the classroom,” Putnam told the subcommittee. “I must submit three plans on the 31st of July with the priority on getting all kids in the classroom. And [Riley] has — his expectation is that we are right now in the midst of a feasibility study in terms of how many kids we can actually fit in the schools.”

Putnam said full, in-person instruction is the focus for himself, the building principals and the district’s director of buildings and grounds, Tim Sears.

I think that Professor Steven Miller is playing a key role in this discussion. What do you think should happen?

I think that Williamstown public schools should open for all students. First, CV-19 is almost harmless to children. Second, there is almost no evidence that children are vectors. That is, there are almost no documented cases of children infecting their parents, despite being in much closer proximity to them than students are to their teachers. Third, in-person schooling is important, especially for students from poorer families and with less educated parents. Whatever risk there may be to teachers — and the primary risk is almost certainly sharing indoor space with other teachers — is not enough to justify closing schools. Any teacher who feels that the risk is too great should resign and pursue a different career.

What do you think will happen come September? I don’t follow Williamstown politics closely enough to have a strong opinion.

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Against Race Theology, 5

Former Williams History Professor Eric Knibbs wrote “Against Race Theology, or: Williams College is Everywhere Now,” the most scathing attack on the culture that is Williams is years. (Hat-tip to John Drew.) Let’s spend a week going through the highlights of the article, centered around last year’s controversies about White Male Vigilantes, self-CARE Now and Green/Love Black Joy. Professor Knibbs will be responding to (some) comments here.

Knibbs concludes:

Now that Williams College is everywhere, it is worth asking what we can learn from this mess. Perhaps the most obvious is the principle of the high-low alliance, between woke junior faculty and student activists on the one hand; and the highest reaches of the administration on the other. Williams protests like this were coordinated, quietly but surely, by elements within the Williams faculty and particularly the administration. Twenty-foot posters denouncing white people are not the kinds of things that tend to emerge without institutional support. The diversity brigadiers at the bottom almost always end up demanding more administrators, and more power for the administration, at the top. The high and the low array themselves, naturally, against their common enemy in the middle, that is to say those elements with which the administrators are in competition for resources and authority, and who enjoy a regard and security that the lower side of the alliance covets. This common enemy is nothing other than the traditional stuff of higher education itself: the departments and rank-and-file tenured faculty. The American race protests, too, are supported in ways direct and indirect by powerful state and corporate elements, for their own purposes of defeating common, perceived enemies in the middle.

Above all, though, it is the total hollowness of the activists‘ ideology and their complaints that is most salient here. The message of the Williams activists in Spring 2019 had nothing in it that was true, or well-argued, or convincing, or even worth entertaining for a moment. At no point in this embarrassing parody of protest did the facts of what had happened matter at all. It didn’t matter that McPartland did the right thing, it didn’t matter that the memorialized professors, far from dead, were enjoying a semester of unearned leave, it didn’t matter that they hardly bothered to articulate a coherent, specific complaint at all. This didn’t matter to the activists, but it didn’t matter to the administration either. To the end people like Mandel pretended that their cause was justified.

What mattered in these protests was only the flat, atemporal tenets of Race Theology. Events on the ground were forced, however they might fit, into the prefabricated moulds of imagined heresies and an entirely mystical racism. This Race Theology is the very same collection of circular doctrines that all of the protesters are now repeating and spray-painting in cities across the world. These diverge more and more from reality, the more they are elaborated and repeated. This is not the ideology of the oppressed, but the official religion of a comfortable establishment, so confident in its power that it need not justify itself. In fact it is eager to find new ways of provoking and offending. The more ground Race Theology is ceded, the more it will demand. There’s no arguing against it, there’s no convincing or appeasing the race theologians. There is only an opting out of their religion. If enough people do that, they’ll lose their power and their political protection. So, in my small way, I opt out of their enterprise. That’s all.

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

If every professor who feels like Knibbs opts out, then what will remain? Where will Williams be in 10 or 50 years? Where will America be? The rest of Yeats’ poem is not cheerful.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I had trouble deciding how to end this post. My natural optimism argues that this is a phase, no worse than the 60s/70s, which will pass with time. Williams will always be Williams. The old man in me knows that more than one faculty member at Williams would look at a job application from Eric Knibbs (or me or anyone non-liberal) with a “gaze blank and pitiless as the sun.”

What do readers think?

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Against Race Theology, 4

Former Williams History Professor Eric Knibbs wrote “Against Race Theology, or: Williams College is Everywhere Now,” the most scathing attack on the culture that is Williams is years. (Hat-tip to John Drew.) Let’s spend a week going through the highlights of the article, centered around last year’s controversies about White Male Vigilantes, self-CARE Now and Green/Love Black Joy. Professor Knibbs will be responding to (some) comments here.

Now it is a remarkable thing, that wherever diversity, inclusion and equity are promoted as the highest ideals, you achieve nothing but ever new heights of conformity, social division and unfairness. The truth is that establishing in-groups (“inclusivity”) has a corollary, namely the definition of out-groups, and so you’re just as likely to foster feelings of community by defining and excluding outsiders, as you are to unleash the forces of the cultural revolution upon supposed ideological opponents (“racists”) by demanding a duplicitous inclusion.

Exactly right. I am curious, however, what pragmatic advice Knibbs might offer to Maud? Take as given Maud’s goals: For Williams to remain the top liberal arts college and for Maud’s life to be pleasant. What would Knibbs have her do?

My advice is the same as always: Admit 25 boisterous conservative students in each class. Hire a dozen or so outspoken conservative/libertarian/republican faculty. Show the campus left that there is another side which they need to take seriously. And then stand above the fray! That is a pleasant place to be! When the Left comes with their demands, just ask them to convince the Right first. Set up campus discussion and debates. Let them fight each other.

Because I am a bad person, I love when Knibbs gets catty.

The protesters, meanwhile, kept protesting. At the end of February they organized something called the March for the Damned, which professed „radical love“ for the two professors who were refusing to do their jobs. A semester is a long time to be on strike, so there were always new opportunities to memorialize the absent profs. The issue became a vector for personal animosities, as an unpleasant professor of American Studies named Dorothy Wang staged a spat with the equally unpleasant chair of the English department in front of some students. An investigation was launched; the student-witnesses were summoned to the offices of high administrators to give evidence. Fashionable and self-important people demanded that the English department chair, herself a committed proponent of all the most fashionable leftisms, resign.

1) Perhaps I have been too easy on Katie Kent ’88? If Knibbs has stories about just how “unpleasant” she is, then we want to hear them at EphBlog.

2) There is a great story to be told about Dorothy Wang’s hiring at Williams. “Sure,” those poor old bastards in the faculty thought, “she seems a little off and lefty, but her research is solid and she’ll make a good teacher. And the Dean says we need some minority women. What’s the worst that could happen?”

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Against Race Theology, 3

Former Williams History Professor Eric Knibbs wrote “Against Race Theology, or: Williams College is Everywhere Now,” the most scathing attack on the culture that is Williams is years. (Hat-tip to John Drew.) Let’s spend a week going through the highlights of the article, centered around last year’s controversies about White Male Vigilantes, self-CARE Now and Green/Love Black Joy. Professor Knibbs will be responding to (some) comments here.

Knibbs summarizes the craziness of last year well. He is not a fan of Maud Mandel:

Student activists developed a protest cult to their absent professors [Green and Love]. They established an impromptu “memorial” in the hallway where both had their offices. This consisted primarily of copies of the Record with its libelous headline, as well as strings and other bits of garbage.

At this moment I enter the tragicomedy briefly. I left Williams two months before all of this took off. Before I knew I’d be departing, I chaired a committee responsible for managing Hollander Hall, the very building afflicted by this outrage. After I left, Prof. Keith McPartland took charge in my place. This landed him in a hard spot, because it turns out that that pile of nonsense violates state fire safety regulations, and is probably also contrary to accessibility standards. Staff, however, were presumably too terrified to touch any of it, lest they get fired. So McPartland did what I hope to god I would’ve had the courage to do, had it been me. Because he enjoyed some measure of protection as a tenured professor, he consulted with campus security and then boxed up the offending portions of the memorial himself. As he did this, students confronted him, but he carried on. That night, faculty offices were papered with posters denouncing McPartland as a racist for his troubles.

Maud Mandel, the weak and indecisive president that Williams so richly deserves, then did exactly what you might expect. She took to her email and promptly denounced her committee chair for doing his job.

We were critical of Maud’s actions last year, but not nearly as critical as Knibbs is here. Were we too generous? Is he unfair?

There is a lot to say about this disgraceful, pandering note. That she doesn’t name the committee chair who did what was necessary matters not at all. Everyone, including me, a whole continent away, knew who it was. The tepid hand-wringing, the saccharine morality, the vagueness as to fact and circumstance: All are characteristic of the administrative rhetoric cultivated at expensive schools like Williams. These are letters that communicate nothing clearly save for the emotional state of their authors. The professors not teaching, but retaining their jobs and collecting a salary, are here said to be undergoing “a difficult time.” And Mandel could hardly pass up the chance to suggest that it was the free speech of Profs. Green and Love and their student supporters that was threatened. Thus she cast herself as guardian of the free expression of those selfsame activists whose histrionics were one battle in a wider campaign to deny free speech to everyone else. A leftist protester is gently prevented from violating fire regulations: For Mandel that’s a free-speech issue. Some faculty signed a thing and have a meeting about the Chicago principles: Speech harms, people at the meeting are told; and the administration rings its hands about how deeply complex it all is. The result is that everyone, including free speech activists, defends all manner of disruptive campus leftist performativity, while only a few people bother to defend anyone else’s right to speak. The only unopposed voices on campus? People like Prof. Green, who feared at one point that their program chair was plotting their assassination.

Green is, clearly, mentally ill. How long will they be teaching at Williams?

Relenting does not quiet the mob. It emboldens its worst actors.

Indeed. But doesn’t Maud deserve some credit for standing up to folks like Green/Love/others by restoring free speech to Williams? Knibbs seems to judge Maud against some (unobtainable?) standard of what a Williams president ought to be. I judge her against the standard of other liberal art college presidents. Which is the fair comparison?

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Against Race Theology, 2

Former Williams History Professor Eric Knibbs wrote “Against Race Theology, or: Williams College is Everywhere Now,” the most scathing attack on the culture that is Williams is years. (Hat-tip to John Drew.) Let’s spend a week going through the highlights of the article, centered around last year’s controversies about White Male Vigilantes, self-CARE Now and Green/Love Black Joy. Professor Knibbs will be responding to (some) comments here.

Knibbs begins:

TLDR: What, a few years ago, seemed like the regrettable yet limited excesses of the campus left, has suddenly become a political force in the wider world. The Race Theology promoted by schools like Williams College is everywhere now. It’s important that reasonable people who are not part of this dubious religious revival voice their dissent. That is what this page is. It represents my own thoughts, and my own thoughts alone.

What do our readers think? Is “Race Theology” a useful name? I prefer The Great Awokening myself.

Politics is not what this website is about, and mainstream political debates have never interested me. In the last few weeks, however, it has become impossible to escape the indignities of political discourse. That’s particularly the case since I set up a twitter account to drive some traffic to my academic blog. My time on twitter has proved disappointing, and in some ways it has radicalized me. Judging from many tweets published there, a great part of those people who claim to be scholars in fact devote astounding energy to careening from one fashion-forward moral grievance to the next, all with a completely grating tonal confidence.

Outside of the bourgeois professorsphere, I have been amused to find people marveling at an article by Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine. It’s about an episode of progressive hyperventilation, in which a lot of race botherers and diversity brigadiers crybullied some data analyst out of his job, for the crime of summarizing a political science paper that they found inconvenient.

The emails that Chait quotes are absolutely, to the word, the tone of discussion in American academia, as I experienced it in my time as an assistant and then associate professor of history at Williams College. The people in those emails are engaging in a power process that is well-established among the American intelligentsia. If you don’t like somebody in these circles, this is one way to shut them up and shut them down. It is the way of things at faculty meetings; at talks and lectures; at student protests especially; and anywhere that administrators are likely to gather.

Surely all EphBlog readers agree that David Shor’s firing was absurd. (Right?) But it is one thing to note craziness somewhere. It is another to claim that this craziness is endemic at Williams. We have faculty readers. Is this a far description of Williams today?

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Against Race Theology, 1

Former Williams History Professor Eric Knibbs wrote “Against Race Theology, or: Williams College is Everywhere Now,” the most scathing attack on the culture that is Williams in years. (Hat-tip to John Drew.) Let’s spend a week going through the highlights of the article, centered around last year’s controversies about White Male Vigilantes, self-CARE Now and Green/Love Black Joy. Professor Knibbs will be responding to (some) comments here.

Let’s start with some of Drew’s comments:

Eric describes what it was like to be a recently tenured history professor at Williams College during the 2018-2019 school year. This was a year which white liberal professors found themselves under attack for not being sufficiently woke. He does a compelling job of describing what it was like working for an institution while it was under siege by radical CARE Now students. These students were opponents of modest efforts to bring the Chicago Principles to Williams College and the ardent acolytes of two of the most ridiculous black professors to ever teach at the campus.

What is most alarming to Eric Knibbs today is that the madness he saw taking place at Williams College now seems to be straightforward vision of what violent Antifa terrorists, enraged peaceful protesters, and statue molesters want to impose on the entire country.

I think it is important to read his article in full. Mainly, it demonstrates that it is not so funny to be face-to-face with leftist, extremist students who are quick to assert racism as the motive for anything they dislike. These students have little to lose and nevertheless appear to have more influence with the administration than a well-meaning professor like Eric Knibbs. I should add that the article also displays Knibbs’ entertaining writing, ability to explain things simply, and his conscientious research. His article is a telling reminder of what an elite Williams College professor would be like in a culture that promoted merit rather than identity politics.

Exactly right. I was very sad when Knibbs announced that he was leaving Williams.

There is a great Record article to be written about Knibbs and his critics.

Note: Comments which pick a personal fight with JCD will be deleted instantly. Better topic: Do you agree or disagree with his summary of Knibb’s article?

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Reopening, 4

Two years ago we were sure that the most important aspect of Maud’s presidency — the topic which historians would focus on 50 years from now — was her efforts to bring free speech (back) to Williams. How wrong we were! Maud’s decisions during the CV-19 pandemic will define her place in the history books. Let’s spend a week or two discussing her latest message.

Three cheers for Maud Mandel!

EphBlog sometimes gives the impression that we don’t like the decisions that Maud makes. And, it is true! We don’t like (some of!) her decisions. Yet there have been two critical issues in Maud’s three years as president: Ensuring free speech and bringing back all students. She got both of them correct! Hooray for Maud! Indeed, there have been no more important sentence written by a Williams president in the last decade (or more) than this one:

I’m writing to inform you that Williams plans to convene an in-person semester for fall 2020.

This was the correct call. Yet it was also a call that could have gone differently, that Maud could have messed up. (This was not the case with her decision to send students home in March. That was important, of course, but, since every elite college did the same thing, it was (essentially) impossible for Maud to mess it up. No college president deserves major credit for making the same decision as all her peers.)

Consider Bowdoin:

We will have some students back in the fall, but not all students. The group on campus will be:
our new first-year and transfer students;
students who have home situations that make online learning nearly impossible;
a very small number of senior honors students who cannot pursue their pre-approved projects online and require access to physical spaces on campus, and can do so under health and safety protocols; and
our student residential life staff.

All other sophomores, juniors, and seniors will remain off campus for the fall semester and will take their courses online. With priority given to seniors, if the fall semester goes as we hope, we expect to have our seniors, juniors, and sophomores return to campus for the spring semester, with the added possibility that our winter and spring athletes may be able to engage with their sports in some way. We expect that our first-year and transfer students will study remotely in the spring.

And Amherst:

However, after lengthy and careful deliberations, we conclude that we can adhere to the best public health guidance and offer an excellent educational experience to students who are on and off campus if we bring approximately 1,200-1,250 students to campus in the fall. This represents just over 60 percent of our total enrollment and between 70 and 75 percent of those who indicated interest in returning to campus for their studies. We hope to bring back even more students in the spring, ideally all who wish to be here. Should that prove unwise, those students who could not be here in the fall will have priority in the spring. With this structure, we can provide the opportunity for every student who wishes to be on campus to spend at least one semester here and, if things go well, both semesters for a large number of those students.

For the fall, we will give priority to all first-year students, all transfer students, all sophomores, any seniors who are scheduled to graduate at the end of the fall semester, and seniors who are returning to campus after spending the fall and/or spring term of the 2019-20 academic year studying abroad. In addition, two categories of students may petition to study on campus: senior thesis writers whose work requires access to campus facilities or materials that would otherwise be unavailable; and students whose home circumstances impede their academic progress.

Amherst and Bowdoin have similar wealth (and similar physical plant?) to Williams. Maud could have done what they did. But she didn’t’. Yeah Maud! Comments:

1) How different are the number of singles between Amherst/Bowdoin and Williams? It seems like this might have played a major role in their decision-making. Does Williams plan/promise a single to every student on campus this fall?

2) What effects will this have on enrollment at Amherst/Bowdoin? I would be sorely tempted to take a gap year if I were a student there, especially if I were an athlete, especially if a bunch of my friends were taking gap years. Indeed, what advice would you give to seniors at these schools? The job market will certainly look a lot better in the fall of 2021 than it will this fall . . .

3) Do you agree with Maud/EphBlog that this was the correct decision?

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Remote Learning Does Not Belong at Williams

What is the biggest mistake which Williams is making right now? The insistence that every course support “remote learning.” From this excellent Record article:

Faculty members have been asked to inform the College by yesterday, June 20, whether they would teach in person or remotely if the campus were to reopen in the fall. The academic subcommittee of the working group tasked with determining what an on-campus fall would look like sent an all-faculty email on June 10 to address curricular planning in the case that campus reopens in the fall. The College has not yet decided whether or not to open campus in the fall, with the decision deadline still set for July 1.

If faculty choose to teach in person, the subcommittee has advised them to design “hybrid” courses to accommodate those students who must continue learning remotely even if campus is open. In addition to anticipating that some students may opt to remain off campus for personal reasons or travel restrictions, the email raised the possibility that “the entire campus may need to switch to remote learning at some point as we did this spring,” or that some students or faculty who begin the semester in-person may need to switch to remote learning during the term. Depending on the development of the public health situation, “we may still need these hybrid models next spring or even the following year,” the subcommittee wrote.

As we have discussed several times, this is a bad idea. First, any student who can’t be on campus should take a semester off. Williams is a residential college. If you can’t be in Williamstown, you can’t get a Williams education. Second, faculty are hired to teach Williams students in classrooms on the Williams campus, not via Zoom. Of course, temporary emergency situations can allow for flexibility on a handful of occasions each year. But anything more than that is nonsense.

This nonsense might not be so bad if it were optional, if students were allowed to come to a classroom and faculty were allowed to teach them. Almost all students/faculty want to be on the log together! But it sure looks like the College is doing its best to make this impossible.

Some faculty members have raised the concern that requiring hybrid courses might discourage faculty from choosing to teach in person. “My strong preference all along has been to teach in-person,” Associate Professor of Political Science Justin Crowe ’03 said. “But the insistence on hybridity for all courses has me resigned to teaching remotely.” He explained, “To have the College compound the extra health risk of in-person teaching with extra workload — and the hybridity requirements are a substantial amount of extra work for anyone who chooses to teach in person — is disappointing.”

Though Crowe acknowledged that some students would need to continue remote learning regardless, he said the presence of other faculty who were already planning to teach remotely would provide “a decent number of courses for remote students to take.” Crowe added, “On an institutional level, I know there are lots of moving parts and conflicting interests, but it seems odd, given the dissatisfaction most students experienced with remote instruction, that we’d bring students back to campus and yet disincentivize faculty from teaching them in person.”

Exactly right. If the College insists on demanding that all courses allow for (simultaneous) remote participation, then faculty have no choice but to Zoom everything. Is that really what Maud wants? Perhaps!

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Dunce Hats

Professor Darel Paul’s twitter account has gone to a dark place:

In a world in which Steve Hsu is forced out at Michigan State, how can Darel Paul be safe at Williams?

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Fight Anti-Black Racism

Maud’s letter on recent protests is about as “conservative” as such a letter could be. (Contrary opinions on this claim are welcome! But, as someone who expected much more action, I was very pleased to see Maud offer so little.) Key section:

Philanthropy: Williams will invest at least $500,000 over the next five years to specifically support racial justice organizations and efforts nationally and in our region. This, too, is consonant with the college’s long tradition of philanthropic support for our region and the world, as summarized in the recent report of the Williams in the World Strategic Planning working group.

1) This was the only dollar figure mentioned. It was lower than I expected. Recall my recommendations:

1) Don’t embarrass yourselves. If you feel you need to give money to appease the mob, give it to a reputable organization, not to the fools and grifters at something like 8 Can’t Wait or Campaign Zero. Recall when Williams, in a similar fit of moral piety, gave money to scam outfits in the name of carbon offsets. Don’t make that mistake again.

2) If you have to give money, give it to organizations with a direct Eph connection. Such organizations are (obviously!) more likely to be trustworthy and effective. Such gifts are less likely to rise the ire of non-BLM supporting alums.

3) Avoid excessively partisan organizations as much as possible. Consider the Innocence Project, an organization which helps to free wrongly convicted prisoners, many of them Black. Even a right-winger like me is supportive of those efforts.

4) Don’t write checks, support students. I, and many other alums, hate it when the College takes our donations and then turns around and donates that money to some other non-profit. If we wanted out money to go to, say, MASS MoCA, we would donate to it directly. Don’t take our money — which is meant to support Williams students and faculty — and send it to your favorite charity.

Nothing in Maud’s letter directly contradicts any of my advice, at least as of now. We will see what happens with the details.

2) Most of the rest is the usual collection of virtue-signalling and preaching to the choir. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Indeed, in the same way that Mark Hopkins, if he wanted to keep his job, had no choice but declare his fervent belief in the divinity of Christ, the President of Williams, in this year of our lord 2020, has no choice but to profess agreement with BLM.

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