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Students Warned By Professors About Sexual Harassment Complaints Against Their Colleague

At least three current students have reported to EphBlog that professors in a for-now-unnamed department warn current students they advise to either a) not take a course and/or b) distance themselves from one particular professor due to a number of sexual harassment complaints, including “coming onto” students during office hours and attempting to engage in other inappropriate behavior. Despite the complaints, which have come at least since the 2013-2014 academic year, this professor is still currently in the employment of the College and is teaching a class this semester. Notably, this professor only conducts class on a limited number of days a week when they are allowed on campus, a measure enacted since the 2014-2015 academic year in response to the complaints. At least for the last year, this professor has not held office hours for their classes.

Questions/comments:

1. What is this professor still doing in a Williams classroom?!?! As an example of what we don’t want students to become? Students come to the College precisely because of the learning that happens from the close relationships we develop with our professors around the subjects that excite our passions. To engage in such gross behavior and take advantage of students in that way is to spit on the spirit of Williams and the rest of its wonderful teachers. And, if for a moment we entertain the thought that this professor learned from their mistakes, we ought to ask ourselves why their colleagues still feel the need to warn students. And on that note…

2. … for current professors to warn current students against taking a class with their colleague is a big deal. It means that they a) know about this professor’s behavior and b) think it is egregious and recurrent enough to explicitly dissuade students from taking their classes. A current student was warned by another professor in the department as recently as spring of 2017, when deciding classes for this fall 2017 semester. If this professor’s behavior did not continue in some form since 2014, do you think the current student would have been warned?

3. We need to know who knew about this and when. Note that for this professor to a) still be on campus despite their colleagues knowing; b) teach in a limited capacity; c) get away with not holding office hours (I have never had nor heard of a professor in any department that did not have them), someone higher up had to know. Classroom scheduling is handled by the Registrar, so it’s likely that someone in the administration knew of this arrangement too. Someone somewhere made the decision to keep this professor on the College’s payroll. We need to know who and for what possible reasons they have continued to let students share a classroom with this professor.

4. Recall the College’s Ending Sexual Assault video. Adam Falk says (around 0:16) “What’s fundamental to our work at Williams is that everyone who comes to the College comes to an environment in which they can thrive.” Do you think this is what he had in mind?

5. Do readers think that EphBlog should reveal the name of the department of the professor?

More to come as this story develops.

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Title IX Update

Useful update on Title IX from former Williams professor KC Johnson:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on September 22 formally rescinded the Obama administration’s commands that universities use unfair rules in sexual-misconduct investigations—rules that had the effect of finding more students guilty of sexual assault. And she appears also to be preparing for far more forceful due-process protections down the road.

Those follow-on regulations could require schools to presume that accused students are innocent unless proven guilty, to allow rigorous cross-examination of accusers, and perhaps also to grant the accused the unqualified right to appeal adverse decisions, and more.

Meanwhile, the modest improvements that DeVos included in the “interim guidance” of September 22 let universities know how to comply with the Education Department’s requirements during the time between the end of the Obama decrees and the final adoption of new, carefully considered regulations.

Read the whole thing.

At a recent meeting with alumni, President Falk suggested the following: First, the College had already incorporated most of the suggestions on the Obama era guidance, even before that guidance was made, so DeVos decision really doesn’t effect Williams. (Is that true? Perhaps the most important change involved the change in burden of proof standards, and I don’t remember that changing before Obama’s guidance.) Second, Falk suggested that, despite whatever DeVos might suggest, the College would continue to do what it thinks best to fight the scourge of sexual assault at Williams.

Has anyone who has gone through the details of the Safety Dance case think that Williams is on the right track? I don’t.

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The Death of Faculty Governance at Williams

Note this Record interview with Falk:

Falk demurs on the notion that the College has grown more bureaucratic, emphasizing his belief that the goal of any hiring and reorganization was directly tied to the betterment of the community. “There had been great growth in the endowment in the previous decade [before I was president] and I think that it had put the College in a position where we didn’t have to make the same kind of difficult choices between different funding priorities that we would have to make once the endowment dropped 30 percent,” Falk said. “And we are just a more complex operation then we used to be. We have a debt portfolio of $300 million. We have a complicated [human resources structure], a complicated facilities operation, a childcare center, a controller’s office and auditors that are doing more and more sophisticated work. A lot of that is really hard work for a faculty member to rotate in every few years and do as effectively as someone who’s a really strong professional.”

The (anonymous!) faculty member who points out this passage asked some (rhetorical!) questions:

Falk’s opinion of faculty governance is on full display here. He clearly prefers a “really strong professional” to make the “difficult choices between different funding priorities.”

Exactly right. Most Williams presidents are remembered, at most, for one thing: Sawyer abolished fraternities. Chandler created Winter Study. Oakley instituted tutorials. What will Falk be remembered for 30 years from now? Tough to say, but one contender is: Put the final nail in the coffin of faculty governance.

Is it truly the case that students and faculty are comfortable with having unaccountable administrators in charge of the really difficult decisions?

Students don’t care, obviously. Faculty (like my correspondent!) love to complain but, when push came to shove, they did nothing of substance. Recall the “alignment” (pdf) that Falk outlined 7 years ago this week. I devoted nine days of discussion to explaining what this meant: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Read it if you want to understand the past/future of faculty governance at Williams. Short version: Faculty governance has decreased each decade at Williams for at least the last 50 years. Falk accelerated/completed that change.

Does he really have such a low opinion of the faculty who have taken on administrative roles?

That is unfair. Falk loves Dukes Love and Denise Buell and Marlene Sandstrom. There are a dozen or more faculty at Williams who want/wanted those jobs. Falk turned all of them down, in preference for the ones he picked. But, at the same time, Falk (and the trustees!) want to pay Chilton/Puddestar/Klass two or three times as much money Love/Buell/Sandstrom and give the former much more power.

If so, what is his opinion of the other faculty and their voice in charting a path for the College?

They should shut up. There are a dozen (or a score? or more?) faculty at Williams that Falk has never had a meaningful one-on-one conversation with.

In any organization, the power lies with a) the people paid the most and b) the people who spend the most time talking with the boss. At Williams, a) and b) describe the senior administrators, not the senior faculty.

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Information about a Recent Campus Incident

From: Marlene Sandstrom
Date: September 10, 2017 at 6:49:14 PM EDT
To: WILLIAMS-STUDENTS@LISTSERV.WILLIAMS.EDU
Subject: information about a recent campus incident
Reply-To: Marlene Sandstrom

Williams students,

We write to inform you of a campus incident earlier this week that you should be aware of.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, two students defaced the door of their friend’s dorm room by painting on it. (We are not disclosing the dorm because the conduct process is confidential.) One of the two students wrote “I like beer.” The second student painted a swastika, and then quickly covered it with more paint to make it illegible. The students then removed all the paint from the door.

The student who painted the swastika reported to campus authorities what they had done. The college has begun disciplinary proceedings, and the student will be held accountable under our campus code of conduct. In addition, we will continue speaking directly with the students who were involved or immediately affected in the dorm where the painting occurred.

None of the people directly involved felt targeted as a function of their identity. For that reason we instigated our investigation and conduct processes without initially making a larger campus announcement. However, several JAs have reported that other students who heard partial accounts of the incident were concerned, especially in the aftermath of Charlottesville and other troubling events. Understanding their concerns, we want you to have full information about what happened and know what steps are being taken, and to assure you that we have no basis for thinking the incident points to an ongoing threat.

Defacing our campus is unacceptable at any time. But the use of a swastika, even as a “prank,” shows a lack of sensitivity to how that symbol has been used as a weapon of intimidation and hatred, both historically and in recent incidents around the country.

If you want support, or if you have questions, please contact the Dean’s Office, the Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity our Chaplains, the Davis Center or Wellbeing Services. And if you have experienced an incident of bias or are aware of one, please report it immediately so the college can step in.

Williams is a place where we all come freely to learn and live. It is at its best when we live up to the college’s values and make everyone feel equally welcome. This is a moment to reaffirm that commitment. We assure you that we are doing our part, and hope you will join with us to stand for Williams as a place of inclusivity and respect.

Marlene Sandstrom
Dean of the College

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes
Vice President
Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity

Stephen Klass
VP for Campus Life
Williams College

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DeVos Speech on Due Process

Former Williams professor KC Johnson writing (with Stuart Taylor) in the Wall Street Journal:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made clear her intention to correct one of the Obama administration’s worst excesses—its unjust rules governing sexual misconduct on college campuses. In a forceful speech Thursday at Virginia’s George Mason University, Mrs. DeVos said that “one rape is one too many”—but also that “one person denied due process is one too many.” Mrs. DeVos declared that “every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”

This might seem like an obvious affirmation of fundamental American principles. But such sentiments were almost wholly absent in discussions about campus sexual assault from the Obama White House and Education Department. Instead, as Mrs. DeVos noted, officials “weaponized” the department’s Office for Civil Rights, imposing policies that have “failed too many students.”

Indeed. Do any of our readers think that the John Doe of Safety Dance should be denied, forever, his Williams degree even though he has completed all his classes?

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Williams presidential search news

To the Williams Community,

I hope you are all enjoying the last days of summer, and looking forward, as I am, to the new academic year.

As you know, President Adam Falk recently announced that he will leave Williams at the end of December to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In my role as chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, I have been asked by the Board to lead our search for Adam’s successor. I am writing today to inform you of our considerable progress in organizing the process, and to share with you our plan for interim college leadership beginning in January of 2018, which was approved by the Board of Trustees yesterday.

First, I am pleased to inform you that Protik (Tiku) Majumder, Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy and Director of the Science Center, has graciously agreed to serve as interim president, starting January 1, 2018, and continuing until the new president is in place. Tiku has an outstanding record as a Williams teacher and mentor, scientist, and faculty leader, and just as importantly has earned wide trust and respect across the Williams community. Our objective was to find an interim president with a keen understanding of our institution; a love of Williams, of its students, and of its faculty; enormous patience, tact, and insight; and an ability to respond with intelligence, compassion, and calm to the inevitable challenges that will arise from time to time. Tiku has each of these qualities, and many more. He will do a superb job of keeping Williams on track, and I ask you to join me in thanking him and supporting his leadership.

Second, we have formed a Presidential Search Committee whose charge will be to present to the Board of Trustees one or more exceptional and thoroughly vetted candidates to become our next president, and to ensure that every member of the Williams community has an opportunity to give input with respect to qualities that we should be seeking, as well as to offer nominations. The Search Committee includes representatives from every sector of our community: students, staff, alumni, faculty, and trustees. Several members are also Williams parents. As their backgrounds indicate, each brings deep involvement with the College. Service on the committee will require significant time and effort, and I am personally grateful to the members for their dedication to Williams and their willingness to take on this essential task.

The members of the committee are:

Michael Eisenson ’77, Trustee and Chair of the Search Committee
O. Andreas Halvorsen ’86, Trustee
Clarence Otis, Jr. ’77, Trustee
Kate L. Queeney ’92, Trustee
Liz Robinson ’90, Trustee
Martha Williamson ’77, Trustee

Ngonidzashe Munemo, Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Associate Professor of Political Science
Peter Murphy, John Hawley Roberts Professor of English
Lucie Schmidt, Professor of Economics
Tom Smith ’88, Professor of Chemistry
Safa Zaki, Professor of Psychology

Chris Winters ’95, Associate Provost

Jordan G. Hampton ’87, President, Society of Alumni
Yvonne Hao ’95, alumna and Trustee Emerita

Ben Gips ’19, student representative
Sarah Hollinger ’19, student representative

Keli Gail, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and principal staff to the committee

Third, the board has retained the firm Spencer Stuart as consultant, to help manage the search process. Spencer Stuart has been involved in numerous recent and successful academic searches at the highest levels, and is very well positioned to help the committee in its work. Searches like this are complex and sensitive, and we expect to benefit greatly from their expertise, specialized resources, and pool of outstanding candidates.

The Search Committee will begin its work shortly, and we will announce opportunities for community input as these are developed. As a first step, we have created a website where you can find information and materials related to the search. We will add to the site as additional materials are available, as further process steps are scheduled, and as we have news to share. Our future email updates will link back to this site as the place of record for search news.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to again thank the members of the Presidential Search Committee for the work they are about to do, and Tiku Majumder for his service as interim president. I also want to convey to our entire community our enthusiasm and optimism as we set out to find the 18th president of Williams College.

Sincerely,

Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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Houston

Other than good wishes from Ephs far and wide, I can’t come up with a Williams connection to the on-going flooding in Houston. Are there any Ephs in government in Texas? Ephs involved in relief work? Ephs associated with storm forecasting?

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JCD is Right!* Hitler is a cliche …

Il Dunce

With the pardon of the sheriff, with the order to the military Re: transgenderpeople in the  service, I’d have slapped up a shot of Der Fuhrer faster than lightning. But JCD is right, I’ve been over-using Hitler as an easy allusion for Drumph and Fascism.

So here is a new simulacrum that I’ll use. It’s a little lighter with a touch of humor. Although the situations grow less and less humorous.

Thanks JCD!

          * see JCD comment, 3rd comment under ‘Very Nice People’ post **

 

**  Granted, this is a meta reference to Williams. However, one that may be familiar to constant readers.

Addenda items …

At David’s good suggestion to search harder for a Williams College reference, I am adding this more direct beat-back.

This article in the blog of Christian Thorne, Associate Professor of English on 27 February, 2017:

https://sites.williams.edu/cthorne/articles/fulfilling-the-fascist-lie/

Mussolini’s government, unlike Hitler’s, did not attempt to monopolize the entire sphere of thought and culture. Historians are keen to point out that there was no Italian Gleichschaltung—no effort to bring everyone into line. Within certain parameters, independent intellectuals continued to publish in Italy, which means not that there were still socialists or communists or liberals expressing themselves freely in Florence and Rome—those people really were shut down—but that there remained an outer circle of freelance fascists, the half-fascists or the merely unenrolled, the shirts not of black, but of charcoal and onyx and taupe,

Added by DDF:

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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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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:
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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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