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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!

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US citizen. English is first language. Has skills!

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

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Show Them The Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Asian Versus Black SAT Scores

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

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

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

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

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

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

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

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

scores

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

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

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

Rplot001

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

Read more

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Deans Instruct Prof to Move Deadlines After Election, 1

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

Dear Concerned Eph ’17,

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

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

Please continue revealing these irresponsible actions by that office.

Best,

Pissed Off Eph ’19

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

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

Questions:

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

What do our readers think of the deans’ actions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Friday!

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The Macrogenoeconomics of Comparative Development

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

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

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

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

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

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URM in Economics

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

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

Consider a concrete example:

urm

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

Here is the Williams economics department:

Department_Photo_Spring2016_v4

Jacobson is on the left. Questions:

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

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

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

pubs

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

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

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

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Safety Dance Second Amended Complaint

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

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

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

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

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

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No Ban, No Wall

Economics Professor Sarah Jacobson tweeted:

nowall

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

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

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

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Professor Irwin Corey Dead at 102 …

08COREY1-master768

 

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

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

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Is This What You Voted For?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Upset and Overwhelmed

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

Dear Colleagues,

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

Sincerely,

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

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

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

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Witch Hunt on the Quad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Faculty Organizes Against DeVos

A faculty friend passed along this e-mail:

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

Dear all,

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

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

The actual letter is absurd in its extremism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1998 Letter to Senate Finance Committee

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

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Merely Peripheral Interlocutors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not Happy

Professor Sarah Jacobson tweeted:

inaugural

1) Always glad to see faculty (and staff!) engage with students about political issues. Kudos to all the participants. I hope that the Record covers this event.

2) We all recall a similar event eight years ago when faculty and staff upset about Obama’s election talked about their views . . . Oh, wait! That didn’t happen? Who could have predicted that? In fact, eight years ago, the College paid for buses to take 100 students to the inauguration. Were similar buses hired this year? I bet not, even though I bet that at least some students would take advantage of such a trip.

3) Any Ephs participating in the ceremonies? Tell us in the comments!

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College Reply on Safety Dance

KC Johnson provides an excellent update/summary on the College’s latest filings (Memo in Support of Motion to Dismiss, Memo v PI and for stay and Kurker Memo) on Safety Dance. Comments:

1) KC’s summary and comments are perfect. Read them! For history’s sake, I have copied them in their entirety below the break.

2) The next hearing in the case is scheduled for January 11. Does anyone have details on exact time/location? Perhaps a reader will be there . . .

rossi3) Does anyone else have the sense that Doe’s attorney is overmatched? Has she ever litigated a case like this in the past? How do attorneys with law degrees from Western New England University School of Law stack up, on average, with attorneys with degrees from Northwestern? As EphBlog likes to point out, money talks (and often wins), and you can be certain that Williams is paying its attorneys much more than Doe can afford to pay his . . .

lapp4) Stop being so snotty EphBlog! And, besides that, Rossi (Doe’s lawyer) has an undergraduate degree from Columbia while the College’s main attorney (Daryl Lapp) has a BA from Swarthmore. Call it tie.

5) How much money have Doe and Williams spent so far? How much can they expect to spend if this case goes to trial? (I would love to get some reasonable estimates from our attorney readers.)

6) Although the details are confusing (to me), it appears that, officially, the College expelled Doe for a single instance of sexual assault against Smith. (She accused him of a variety of violations, including various forms of “relationship abuse.”)

date

First, assuming that this is correct, that the key event happened on September 1, 2014 (in the middle of their approximately two year relationship), did this occur on the Williams campus? (Classes were not in session but perhaps Smith/Doe arrived early.) Second, would it (should it?) matter if it occurred off campus? I can understand (maybe!) why the College feels the need to regulate events on campus. But to do so off-campus seems insane . . .

7) The College is pulling no punches:

punches

EphBlog readers knew about Doe’s prior record two months ago.

8) Can anyone explain the logic of Doe pursuing this case while the College is still going through its own process?

appeal

If I were the Court, I would find this persuasive. Why not wait until the College rules on Doe’s appeal of his expulsion? But, if I were the Court, I would also press Williams on just how long its appeal process is going to take. And, if I were a cynic, I would note that all the lawyers involved benefit from maximizing the paperwork generated and time spent on the dispute . . .

Would readers like me to spend a week going through these documents item by item? Or should I move on to other stuff?

UPDATE: John Doe has filed a Withdrawal of Opposition v Motion to Stay, meaning, I think, that there will be no hearing until after February 28, at which point the College plans to issue its ruling on Doe’s appeal of his expulsion.

UPDATE II: KC Johnson notes that the Motion to Stay has been granted, with the next hearing scheduled for March 2. So, it looks like the judge agreed with EphBlog (unsurprisingly!) and will wait for the College to rule on Doe’s appeal.

Read more

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McGuire on Virtually Reality

Via our friends at Williams twitter, this talk by Professor Morgan McGuire “on virtual reality for non-technical audiences.”

Highly recommended.

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Merry Christmas

grading

Merry Christmas to all! EphBlog hopes that the world is looking prettier to Ephs far and wide.

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Almost 20% Low Income?

This naive and uninteresting article on elite college admissions mentions:

What top colleges and universities really have to do is reach out to students who don’t apply to them in the first place, said Adam Falk, the president of Williams College, almost 20 percent of whose students are low income, and which flies high-achieving low-income prospective applicants to its campus and teams up with a nonprofit called QuestBridge to find them.

The idea of need-blind admission “fits nicely on a bumper sticker,” Falk said. But “simply taking your admission pool and turning off your information about the financial need of students isn’t good enough. You have to go out there and find students. That means going into communities with high financial need and actively recruiting there.”

It also means supporting students from those places when they show up, Falk said.

Anyone who believes that 20% of the students at Williams are low income is a fool. Readers interested in this topic should start with this ten part rant from 2014.

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College Fix on Safety Dance

They start with a great headline:

College employee falsely accused student of rape so she wouldn’t get fired, lawsuit claims

This is much better than our first effort since it mentions the (obviously false) rape accusation. After reading the material associated with the case, no reasonable person would believe that John Doe sexually assaulted Susan Smith. However, I don’t think that Smith used the false rape accusation to avoid getting fired. The timing does not work out. This is much more likely to be a women-scorned scenario.

Williams College is withholding a former student’s diploma based on transparently false rape accusations by a college employee – his former lover – who believed her job was jeopardized by him, a new lawsuit claims.

The former student accused the once-religious private school of conducting an “inherently flawed” and “fundamentally unfair” rape investigation, in violation of his Title IX rights, and violating federal education privacy law.

1) Again, the most important (and indisputed!) facts of the case are that Smith/Doe were having sex for a year, then something happened one night, then they continued to have sex for another year. Now, obviously, sexual assault can occur in the middle of a long-standing sexual relationship. But there ought to be a fairly high standard of evidence required if you are going to ruin someone’s life in this scenario.

2) Why the College Fix uses the (accurate) description of “once-religious private school” for Williams is a mystery to me. Is this some sort of weird right wing tic?

To investigate the employee’s claims, the college hired the same person named in a lawsuit against nearby Amherst College that said her work was rushed and one-sided in favor of the accuser.

That would be Allyson Kurker, another person who makes money off of the weaponizing of sexual relationships in college. If you are accused of sexual assault, the last thing you want is Kurker to investigate the claim. From KC Johnson:

In the deposition, Kurker made clear that when accusers change their minds about whether they were sexually assaulted, what they previously said about their attack isn’t relevant to her inquiry. She added that she was interested in contemporaneous writings from the accuser only “to the extent that the incident is being described as nonconsensual.” Kurker continued: “The only e-mails that I would have found material” were those in which A.S. had described the incident as nonconsensual. This standard suggests that Kurker sees her job as not searching for—indeed, arguably concealing—potentially exculpatory evidence.

And Williams still hired her! There are dozens of Massachusetts attorneys who would love to get money from the College to investigate sexual assault claims. Why would Williams hire someone like Kurker who is so obviously biased against the accused? The naive answer is that Williams is incompetent, that it did not know about Kurker and did not bother to check out her previous work. The scary answer is that Williams knew all about Kurker, knew that she was biased against the accused and hired her anyway because, after all the complaints over the Lexie Brackenridge case, the College wanted to collect some scalps.

In May [2016], with less than a month before Doe’s graduation, Smith filed a counter-complaint with the Title IX office alleging that he had “displayed abusive behavior towards her during the past two years.”

Smith’s initial complaint provided few details as to the nature of her claim. During the Title IX investigation, which took place over several weeks and included several interviews with witnesses provided by Smith, she made several new allegations.

That timing is the strangest part of the case. It is May 2016. Smith graduated in 2015. Doe is weeks away from graduation. She tried to get him thrown up on trumped up honor code violations and failed to do so. She has been employed by Williams for almost a year but has been (I hope!) told that, given her behavior in striking (!) a student, the College will not be renewing her contract. The relationship between Doe/Smith has been over (really??) for months. So, why file a complaint now?

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Genius of Winding Paths

Lovely essay by Professor Michael Lewis about Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York City’s Central Park.

Olmsted’s work is so lovely and unassailable that one is surprised to realize how unoriginal it was. His entire repertoire of motifs—pleasing juxtapositions of trees and meadows, serpentine paths that hug the contours of the land, rustic bridges and pavilions, sudden passages of rugged terrain and ravines—was thoroughly conventional. So too were his aesthetic values, which might be summarized as variety, contrast, and surprise. These were the principles of the picturesque, which erupted onto the scene suddenly in eighteenth-century England and with worldwide consequences. They were already old long before Olmsted’s birth. Whatever his achievement was, and it was spectacular, it did not consist in the invention of a new approach to landscape. What then, exactly, did Olmsted do?

If the basic American understanding of land was the unsentimental utilitarianism of a colonial mercantile society, there was also a latent residue of idealism. This was the legacy of the religious refugees of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries whose town planning was saturated with biblical ideas of a perfect ordered society. Olmsted himself was a product of New England Puritanism in its final manifestation, having been born just as its Calvinist core was dissolving into Transcendentalism and releasing its moral energies into American political and social life. Had Olmsted never existed, someone else surely would have applied the moral force of this ethic to landscape design, making parks the vehicle of social reform. But it is inconceivable that anyone else would have had the same deep cistern of human sympathy to drawn on. It was a cistern patiently filled during walks in England, ramblings through the South, urgent work for the Sanitary Commission, and all the other restless divagations that make up the career of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Read the whole thing.

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Jackall Votes Trump

Registered Democrat and son-of-a-union-steel-worker Professor Robert Jackall voted for Donald Trump. He writes:

The issues to me are quite clear:

1.our over-regulated economy

2. our destructive trade deals

3. our ‘deal’ with Iran’

4. Obama’s dereliction of duty in opening our borders to all comers. The principal loser of his actions is precisely black Americans, though they don’t recognize the destructive consequences of his immigration policies because of their racial loyalty to him.

5. The necessity for tax cuts instead of increases.

6. the necessity for a massive de-regulation to eliminate the growth-crushing burden created by Obama’s regulations

7. the necessity to rein in presidential executive orders, which pervert the constitution.

8. the necessity to come to grips with the national debt, increased by 100 percent under Obama. This issue alone will destroy us if we leave it unaddressed.

First, political diversity among the faculty is important, so it is nice that there is at least one Trump voter among the 300+ professors at Williams. Are there any others?

Second, the Williams Forum is a new student organization, similar to the old Williams College Debate Union. It ought to host a collection of debates about Trump with a variety of liberal faculty members arguing against Jackall.

Third, which of the above arguments do our readers find most/least compelling?

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Griffin Vandalism was a Hate Hoax

Latest all-campus e-mail:

From: Adam Falk
Date: Monday, November 14, 2016
Subject: An update on the vandalism in Griffin Hall
To: WILLIAMS-ALL@listserv.williams.edu

To the Williams Community,

We write to inform you that Campus Safety and Security has identified the people responsible for the vandalism in Griffin Hall that occurred over the weekend. Two students were identified and interviewed, and during interviews they admitted that they alone were responsible.

The students told CSS that they had committed the vandalism to bring attention to the effects of the presidential election on many within our community. The use of “AMKKK” was not a specific reference from anyone affiliated with or supportive of the Ku Klux Klan, nor was it intended as a threat. Rather, we understand it was meant to signify AmeriKKKa, a spelling of America that references racism in our society.

The students will be held accountable for their actions through the college’s disciplinary procedures. Their actions did much more than damage property; they harmed our entire community and caused considerable fear, among students in particular. We are deeply distressed that anyone in our community would feel compelled to express themselves in such a destructive and harmful way. We understand that many continue to experience anxiety and fear in the wake of the election. Acts such as this vandalism are not the answer, and they will not be tolerated in our community.

Our thanks go to CSS for its tireless and thorough investigation and to all those who offered assistance in this effort. Please know that the deans, chaplains, Davis Center staff, and Psychological Counseling Services staff are available to provide support at any time.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk, President
Leticia S.E. Haynes, VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

1) EphBlog told you so! To be pedantic, this was perhaps not so much a hate hoax — as in 1993, 2011 and 2012 — but just simple politically-inspired vandalism as in the hockey rink vandalism of 2015.

2) Instead of getting the campus all riled up with those absurd e-mails, a smarter Administration would have, from the start, raised the possibility of a hoax and mentioned the historical examples. Why terrify students, especially students of color, with a claim that white racist KKK members were roaming the Williams campus? (Cynical reasons would include both that students like to be terrified and that, without constant racial controversy, there would be no need for a highly paid “VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity.”

3) EphBlog should have guessed the “AmeriKKKa” usage. Who else recalls the Amerika mini-series of 1987?

4) “caused considerable fear, among students in particular.” But that was because of Administration incompetence! Will Falk et al be held accountable? I have my doubts!

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Vandalism in Griffin Hall

To the Williams Community,

We write to share with you news of a disturbing incident of vandalism that occurred over the weekend in Griffin Hall. The vandalism was discovered and reported to the Williamstown Police Department around noon on Saturday by a visitor to campus.

Police determined that the vandalism, while abhorrent, did not create an immediate danger, nor did it constitute a specific threat toward any individuals or groups. Had there been a confirmed threat to our community we would have communicated with you about it immediately. We worried–without any information about the intent behind the act of vandalism–about the impact of an immediate campus-wide notification on our community, including the possibility that it would cause fear. We thought it important and responsible to wait until we investigated further, in the hope we would soon have more complete information to share.

Here’s what we know. Sometime on Saturday morning, what appears to be a wood-stain type substance was splattered down the stairs inside Griffin from the top to the first floor. The visitor who reported it to police described the stain as looking like blood. In addition, “AMKKK KILL” was written on the wall along the stairs in red paint. The same paint was found on some posters on the bulletin board outside Griffin 3.

WPD and Campus Safety and Security began an investigation, and WPD has notified the FBI and the Massachusetts State Police. Both WPD and CSS have continued an active investigation ever since, with CSS interviewing more than 40 individuals.

This vandalism is disturbing and intolerable, no matter what motivated it. In the current post-election climate, we have a heightened awareness for any actions or expressions that may be bias incidents. So far it has not been determined that this vandalism was a bias incident, but we will inform you if that changes, and we hope to report to you soon that the responsible person or people have been identified. If you have any information that might aid the investigation, we urge you to call CSS at X4444.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk, President
Leticia S.E. Haynes, VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

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