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Drew on Farwell

Former political science professor John Drew shared these memories:

Meeting Pete Farwell was one of the highlights of my time as a professor at Williams College.

I was interested in Pete, in part, because I competed in cross country and track as a high school student in Southern California. With only the most inadequate coaching, I still managed through sheer will-power to break an impressive list of school records posting a 4:23 mile, a 1:52 half mile and a 0:50 quarter mile all at age 18.

I ended up at Occidental College because I was recruited for my skill as an athlete and not for my, as yet, undeveloped skill as a political scientist.

After a couple of weeks running with Pete and his team I ended up thinking I might have been an Olympic athlete if I had had him as a coach during my youthful years. I hung out with Pete and his team largely to get exercise and be of service. I got to fire the starting gun a couple of times and attended team events. I ended up learning so much from him that benefited me for years including mixing up my workouts, icing down afterwards, and correctly running heel to toe.

One of his best tricks as a coach was to not allow his cross country runners to have a slow rest day prior to a regular season cross country event. Then, at the very end of the season, he gave them a rest period prior to the championship. The result was a profound psychological and physiological advantage that supercharged his athletes and overwhelmed their opponents.

Pete was very kind to me and had me over to his home a number of times for dinner. We were both interested in Buddhism and meditation. We never talked politics. I’m glad to see him being honored. He was, without a doubt, the best cross country coach I ever had in my entire life and the best one I ever met.

Thanks again to Derek for the excellent post which started this conversation. Who else has memories of Pete to share?

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 13

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 13.

Falk’s main argument is that one article by Derbyshire, “The Talk: Non-Black Version,” makes his presence at Williams unacceptable. Falk does not so much argue against the substance of Derbshire’s views as point-and-sputter in their general direction. Falk (accurately) quotes Derbyshire:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

First, we should always be interested in what other people tell their own children. Recall that the context is “The Talk” that African-American parents give their children about the dangers inherent in interactions with the police. Derbyshire writes:

There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following.

I certainly believe that Derbyshire is telling the truth. I also doubt that he is some weird outlier. You really think that he is the only parent in America who tells their children to stay out of certain neighborhoods? Most of us, of course, don’t put it so crudely. We tell our children to be wary of “bad” neighborhoods and “poor” neighborhoods. But, in the vast majority of US cities, the exact terminology does not change the recommended action. If you stay out of “poor” neighborhoods, you will also stay out of “black neighborhoods.”

Second, even if Derbshire is the only racist in America, it sure seems like the rest of the country is following his advice. Go to the black neighborhood in your city. How many white/Asian teenagers do you see? How many from outside the neighborhood? How many middle class or richer? Very few non-poor, non-black teenagers spend any unsupervised time in “heavily black neighborhoods.” You may decry this fact, but you can hardly blame Derbyshire for it.

Third, note Falk’s hypocrisy. You can be certain that his teenage children have almost never spent any unsupervised time in a heavily black neighborhood. And that is OK! My children haven’t either. Have your children? Of course, Falk never says the words to his children that Derbyshire said his, but the actual reality of their lived experience is probably identical.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 12

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 12.

Falk’s critique of Derbyshire is just as sloppy as his defense of his decision to ban Derbyshire from Williams. But before that a story . . .

At a 2017 May presentation to important alumni, Falk was asked:

No event in the last five years has given Williams more of a black eye in the national press than your cancellation last year of a student-invited talk by John Derbyshire, a leading intellectual of the alternative right. Since then, Donald Trump has won the presidency and several leaders of the alternative right — people like Steve Bannon and Jason Miller — have ascended to leadership positions in his administration. I met yesterday with the student leaders of the new Republican Club on campus. They plan on bringing several speakers to campus — including alumni like Mike Needham ’04 and Oren Cass ’05 — Republicans who are often branded as “racists” by their political opponents. In fact, they might even invite me to speak. I agree with some, but not all, of what John Derbyshire has written. Will you also be banning me from speaking on campus?

Falk assured me that I, at least, would not be banned from campus. Good to know! But he steadfastly defended his decision, claiming that Derbyshire’s views were too outrageous to allow on campus. At that point, Falk could have trotted out any of Derbyshire’s positions as justification. Instead he said:

Derbyshire believes that African-Americans are more violent.

And that was it! That was all Falk offered in terms of a specific example.

The problem, of course, is that — using any definition of violence you like — African-Americans are much more violent than white Americans, much less Asian-Americans.

Consider this report from (Obama’s!) Department of Justice or data from the FBI. Wikipedia provides a useful summary.

Derbyshire’s sin is not that he advocates violence (he doesn’t) or that he advocates hate (he doesn’t) or that he tells lies. Derbyshire’s sin is that he tells the truth.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 11

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 11.

Apologies for extending this discussion for a third week, but Falk’s misleading prose deserves a thorough fisking. His Washington Post article finishes with:

How many more examples do we need? For how long are we going to allow the vocabulary of freedom to be hijacked by people trying to impress upon us its opposite?

Let’s start with the Communists. No student should be allowed to wear a Che shirt at Williams, much less display the hammer-and-sickle on any item of clothing. We should never allow someone like, say, Angela Davis to speak at Williams, as she has multiple times in the past. Adam Falk has found the line and, one would hope, Communists, like Nazis, are on the other side of it . . .

Of course, in Adam Falk’s world, no opinion is too leftist to be heard at Williams. Only speech from the right must be prohibited.

As Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said at yet another congressional hearing on the topic recently, “Colleges should be a place of robust speech and disagreement. … But, I think, we cannot use the banner of protecting free speech to allow people to terrorize folks.”

Those who care about real freedom of speech — as I do, and as I know Sen. Kennedy does — need to be far more concerned with such threats than with even the most boisterous student protest.

As an educator, I politely decline to hide my head in a bag. It’s too important for me, and Sen. Kennedy, and all of us, to keep our eyes and ears open to the rising chorus of hate.

Note the misdirection. Adam talks about “such threats” without noting that John Derbsyhire has never threatened anyone. He has never committed a crime or even been charged with one. He has never encouraged lawlessness. He only has ideas that Adam Falk does not like.

History will remember that Adam Falk was the first Williams president in 150 years to ban a speaker from campus, to restrict discussion and debate which students had sought out. With luck, he will be the last Williams president to do so, at least for a century or so.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 10

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 10.

Campuses have to be shut down to deal with the ensuing threats. Learning is being disrupted, tuition money wasted, innocent people terrorized.

Some version of this drama has played out at Texas A&M. At Syracuse University. At the University of Iowa and Evergreen State and Dartmouth and Hampshire College and Trinity College and Drexel University.

Note what Falk leaves out: He fails to mention the time that he shut down the Williams campus! How stupid he must think we are. He, and he alone, was responsible for “tuition money wasted” and learning “being disrupted.” Back-of-the-envelope, there are 120 class days per year, so Falk’s cancellation caused 2,000 Williams students to miss almost 1% of their education that year. Total cost: more than $500,000.[1]

Most annoying is Falk’s concern over “innocent people terrorized.” Falk’s 2011 campus shut down involved racist grafitti (“All Niggers Must Die”) in Prospect House. We now know — and the Williams administration knew very quickly — that this was written by black/Hispanic student Jess Torres ’12. Scores of students were honestly terrified by this event. (I have spoken to some.) They really believed — because the Williams administration led them to believe — that there was a (potentially violent?) Klansman with access to the inside of student dormitories. Falk allowed them, even caused them, to feel terrorized because he was too much of a coward to reveal the truth. And now he seeks to lecture us about the dangers of John Derbyshire speaking on campus?

[1] Note that I don’t think this sort of calculation makes a lot of sense. But Falk is the one arguing in these terms.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 9

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 9.

There are times when I’ve wondered whether we should treat these events as a type of performance rather than speech: If the World Wrestling Federation demanded to hold a cage match on the Berkeley campus, would the university be obligated to host it at public expense?

Views that Adam Falk agrees with == Speech.
Views that Adam Falk disagrees with == Performance.

The First Amendment applies to Speech but not to Performance. Simple!

Let’s try rewriting that last bit:

If When Brothers Speak demanded to hold a spoken word concert on the Berkeley campus, would the university be obligated to host it at public expense?

First, making fun of the enthusiasms of whites, especially poor, less educated whites, is OK, if you are Adam Falk. Making fun of the enthusiasms of African-Americans or Jews or just about any other group? Forget about it!

Second, is Falk so uneducated that he does not realize that this is a settled matter of Constitutional law, a non-problem that is easily handled hundreds of times each week in this great country of ours? Any public institution — whether it be the University of California or Margaret Lindley Park must operate in a viewpoint neutral manner. If you allow group A to hold an event of type X, then you must allow group B to hold an event of type X. You can have rules about X — nothing for profit, nothing loud, nothing with more than 100 attendees, whatever — but those rules must apply to everyone.

The incidents we’re being forced to contend with are far more pernicious and no less staged.

I suspect that Falk is not clear-eyed enough to understand exactly what his views imply. Can public institutions, like Margaret Lindley Park, bar “pernicious” events? Or only pernicious events that are “staged?” Who gets to decide? If that is the rule then, in addition to Nazi events, I would like to ban Communist events since Communists were responsible for at least as many innocent deaths in the 20th century as Nazis.

Nor should we be concerned solely with sensationalist speakers. Too many of our students and faculty are being threatened and harassed for expressing challenging points of view, especially about race. Their words are picked up by websites such as Campus Reform and The College Fix, amplified and distorted and shoveled into the Internet outrage machine.

Adam Falk is concerned with rudeness on the internet? Good luck! But it sure would be nice to see some concern for harassment directed at Williams students like Zach Wood. Adam Falk has no said one single word about that. As best we can tell, he only cares about threats and harassment from the right.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 8

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 8.

Private colleges have a great deal of discretion to choose which guests to invite to speak in our communities. Our campuses are not legally public squares. So these provocateurs have instead turned their focus to the more vulnerable public institutions.

“Vulnerable” is an interesting choice of works. Often, when people think that an institution is “vulnerable” to something pernicious, they want to strengthen or protect it. Would Adam Falk like to strengthen public schools so that they, like Williams, are no longer “vulnerable” to people like Derbyshire? I am honestly curious.

After all, laws, even the Constitution, can be changed. Or judges can change what the laws mean. If the First Amendment were to be interpreted as strictly as some other amendments, it might become possible for public universities to ban “hate speech.” Is that what Adam Falk wants?

Just this fall we’ve seen the University of Florida forced to spend more than $500,000 to enable a single speech by Spencer.

“Forced?” Not by Spencer. Spencer is happy enough to speak for free. The problem is, obviously, Antifa, the same group responsible for the violence at Middlebury. They seek to deprive, using violence, Spencer from exercising his constitutional right to free speech. Does Falk really want to see the heckler’s veto work so well?

Falk’s opinions are not important because he is important. They are important for the light they shed on where elite opinion is heading in America: Toward the restriction of unpopular speech.

And of course there were the far more agonizing costs of the tragedy in Charlottesville, which began with people carrying torches, swastikas and Confederate battle flags across the Lawn at the University of Virginia.

The Lawn is public. Would Adam Falk like to ban Confederate flags, and the people who like them, from the Lawn? From all public property? From private property? Of course, we need rules and regulations and permits for the use of public land. Current US law is that all such regulation must be viewpoint neutral. The rules for having a Black Lives Matter march on the Lawn must be the same as the rules for having a Nazi march. Adam Falk seems to prefer an America in which some viewpoints are allowed on the Lawn and some are not. Is he some weird outlier? I doubt it.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 7

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 7.

The problem is that provocateurs such as Derbyshire, Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopolous are intentionally blurring the line between the two. They have few policy ideas to offer, conservative or otherwise, and little or nothing interesting to say about critical issues such as health care, foreign policy or the tax code.

Unlike, say, Jiz Lee (NSFW)? Recall that Williams invited porn star Jiz Lee to speak on campus in 2012, during Adam Falk’s presidency. And that is OK! Williams should be a place for free-wheeling debate. Not every speaker needs to have an opinion on, say, health care. But Falk can’t pretend that there is no place for “provocateurs” on campus while, at the same time, allowing Jiz Lee to speak.

Instead they’re obsessed with provoking outrage by demeaning whole populations and challenging their right to be on our campuses or in our country.

Falk misleadingly conflates Derbyshire (the person he actually banned) with Yiannopolous, much less Spencer. Perhaps Yiannopolous enjoys the outrage game. Derbyshire doesn’t. Perhaps Spencer challenges rights. Derbyshire doesn’t.

Note the sloppy language/thinking in a phrase like “challenging their right to be on our campuses.” What does that even mean? Do Derbyshire/Yiannopolous/Spencer (DYS) challenge the right of any Eph to be on the Williams campus? No! Falk is just making stuff up. (Williams, of course, reserves the right, not only to prevent DYS from being on campus, but to reject thousands of applicants each year.)

Is Falk’s position that anyone who challenges the “right” of group X to be “in our country” is a hate-filled bigot? I am honestly curious. DYS, like President Trump and a majority of American citizens, believe that immigration to the US should be significantly restricted. The Williams faculty/administration has certainly never invited a supporter of immigration-restriction to campus. Is this view banned as well?

What today’s students object to is not hearing points of view different from their own, but hearing their contemporaries publicly humiliated and threatened.

Falk did not object very strongly when Zach Wood and other Williams students were “threatened” by Eph social justice warriors. From Wood’s Senate testimony (pdf):

threat

Or are threats against conservatives OK?

Speakers such as Spencer and Yiannopolous — craving attention, backed with outside money, pumped up with social media muscle and often surrounded by literal muscle — cleverly bully students into a prescribed role in a formulaic drama: intolerant liberal “snowflakes” silencing courageous speakers of uncomfortable truths.

Exercise for the reader: Evaluate the (sloppy) rhetoric in this passage.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 6

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 6.

Before we continue our examination of Falk’s justifications, I want to step back and examine my claim that, if Falk is remembered for anything 50 years from now — in the same way that we remember Williams President Jack Sawyer ’39 for his elimination of fraternities — it will be for banning Derbyshire. Are there other candidates for historical importance during Falk’s tenure?

1) His tenure placed the final nail in the coffin of faculty governance. Recall the “alignment” (pdf) that Falk outlined 7 years ago. 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.

2) Falk’s naivete about fake hate crimes might be an example in a history book 50 years from now. In November 2011, someone wrote “All Niggers Must Die” on the door of a bathroom on the fourth floor of Prospect House. (Record coverage here, here, and here.) That someone was almost certainly student of color and campus activist Jess Torres ’12. Evidence here: pdf. Previous discussion starts here. Falk cancelled classes even though he knew, or should have known, that this was a hate hoax. This was the first campus-wide cancellation of classes for almost 50 years.

3) Might Zach Wood ’18 go on to greatness? Probably not, since there are few slots available in history’s pantheon. But, if he does, his battles with Falk will live on.

4) Someone suggested (sorry, can’t find the link) that Falk would be remembered for turning Williams into a mall and/or ski-lodge. I disagree with that assessment because the major changes in campus construction (replace Baxter with Paresky, add Hollander/Schapiro, remove Sawyer Library) all occurred before his arrival. Even the major change during his time (completion of new Stetson/Sawyer) was planned/started before him.

What do readers think Falk will be remembered for in 2067?

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 5

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 5.

My presidential colleagues could add many examples from their own schools. Such events are happening on American campuses practically every day.

No kidding! The issue is not: Is there a single conservative speaker at Williams? The issues are: 1) What is the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers? 2) How does the format of events differ depending on the political views of the speaker? 3) How does student reaction vary? Falk insults his most serious critics by declining to consider their strongest arguments. Answers for Williams:

1) The ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers invited by Williams faculty/administrators has been 25:1, or even 50:1, over the last 7 years. Does that seem sensible?

2) Liberal speakers almost always appear on stage alone and are provided an opportunity to make their case, followed by a Q&A. Conservative speakers almost always appear in a debate/discussion format.

3) Students often react very negatively to conservative speakers. Although we have (thankfully!) seen nothing like the physical violence at Middlebury, individual Williams students have been harassed.

What has too often been portrayed as a simple problem of liberal campuses censoring conservative ideas is something far more complex.

No, it isn’t. You banned a conservative speaker. Hundreds of Williams students (and faculty?) want to ban almost any speaker who is pro-Trump.

Sen. Kennedy himself stumbled onto the real issue when he told the hearing that schools should be allowed to respond differently to “speech that’s inflammatory; speech that uses a racial epithet; speech that’s designed to provoke” than to “a point of view that may not be popular.”

Is Falk well-served to refer to a US Senator as having “stumbled?” One view is that it is stupid to gratuitously insult powerful people. Why not be polite to Kennedy if politeness is free? The alternative view is that Falk is playing to the crowd, to the sort of people who read the Washington Post and run the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. For those people, Republican from Louisianan are capable of little more than stumbles . . .

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 4

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 4.

I can offer numerous examples in support of my argument from just the Williams campus. Three weeks after I declined to host Derbyshire, Murray spoke to a respectful student audience. Later in 2016, a similarly civil gathering heard Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute debate Daniel Weiner of the Brennan Center on campaign finance reform.

Unpacking this suitcase of misinformation is my raison de blog.

First, the only reason that Murray spoke at Williams was because Uncomfortable Learning invited him. In the last four years, Williams faculty/administrators have invited almost no conservative/Republican/libertarian speakers to campus. Moreover, Falk/Williams tried very hard, over multiple years, to shutdown UL. If he/they had been successful, Murray never would have come.

Second, Williams — and I suspect Falk was involved in this subterfuge — couldn’t even allow Murray to simply speak. Instead:

In response to Murray’s scheduled appearance at the College, the Williams College Debating Union (WCDU) invited Joseph L. Graves Jr., an evolutionary and nanobiologist and historian of science based at the Joint School for Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. Graves’ speech, entitled “Race, Genomics and Intelligence: Slight Return,” occurred in the same venue as Murray’s talk, immediately before the AEI fellow was to speak.

The Record is almost certainly guilty of its usual lousy reporting on this. First, the WCDU was not very active 2016, inviting zero speakers other than Graves to campus. Second, the sign for the event gives the leading spot for funding to the “Office of the President.” In other words, Falk was so concerned about (the reaction to?) Murray’s speech that he used a bunch of his own discretionary funds, laundered through a student group, to invite a mediocrity to speak for 90 minutes directly before Murray. That seems like a vote of confidence in the Williams community’s ability to handle controversial speech!

Third, explicitly mentioning a Charles Murray talk at a NESCAC school without discussing the violence which erupted at Middlebury is . . . a rhetorical trick that relies on the (assumed!) ignorance of his audience.

Fourth, the Shapiro/Weiner event, while praise-worthy, is one of only two non-UL events in the last four years involving a conservative/libertarian/Republican perspective. For Falk to cite this as if it is a common event on the Williams campus is absurd. Note also that neither of these two events featured a right wing voice speaking alone. Neither the College nor any faculty member has invited a solo speaker like Shapiro in the memory of any current student.

Last November, two days after the national election, former senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.), a prominent Donald Trump supporter, participated in a well-attended analysis of the results. And American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers recently came to offer her critique of contemporary feminism. Our students listened closely, then responded with challenging questions and in some cases blunt critiques — utterances to which they, too, surely were entitled.

First, many students (and faculty members?) felt that someone like Brown should not be allowed to speak on campus.

Second, Brown was, like Shapiro, paired with a liberal speaker. During Adam Falk’s 7 years at Williams, there have been scores of events featuring a liberal/progressive/Democratic speaker sharing her views with the audience, without the need for a debate or an opposing viewpoint. Outside of Uncomfortable Learning events, I don’t think there has been a single such event featuring a speaker from the Right.

Third, notice how Falk takes credit for Sommers even though she, like Murray, only appeared at Williams because of Uncomfortable Learning, an organization that senior faculty members like Sam Crane have gone out of their way to try to destroy.

If UL goes away with Zach Wood’s graduation next spring, will there be a single (solo) conservative/libertarian/Republican speaker invited to campus in 2018-2019? I have my doubts.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 3

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 3.

Sen. Kennedy portrayed the controversy as a matter of campus free speech. True, my decision made Williams an early entrant into the national debate on that issue. But his comments exemplify a widespread misunderstanding about the state of speech at American colleges and universities.

If the banning of Derbyshire is not a controversy about “campus free speech,” then what is it a controversy over? If anything, Falk’s actions are on canonical example of the problem.

Today’s students are far more eager to hear and engage with serious points of view of all kinds than you would think by reading the headlines. To understand this, just tally the annual speaking engagements of Charles Murray, Arthur Brooks, Jason Riley and other prominent conservatives who regularly speak to college audiences. But you won’t see many media stories titled, “Conservative Thinker Received Thoughtfully by Campus Audience.” That’s not a story that sells papers.

1) There are scores (hundreds? a majority?) of Williams students who think that speakers like Derbyshire/Veneker/Murray should be banned from campus. This is the official editorial position of the Williams Record. If we can’t trust Falk to be truthful about the problem, then why would we look to him for a solution?

2) Jason Riley is a prominent conservative? Uhh, maybe. But note that Riley is also the author of Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders, perhaps the most un-Trumpian book imaginable.

3) I agree that it is a good idea to “tally the annual speaking engagements” of, not just conservative speakers, but of all speakers. What would that show at Williams? The vast majority of speakers are, of course, non-political. Adalyat Issiyeva, speaking on “Russian Orientalism: Russo-Japanese War and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Opera ‘The Golden Cockerel’” is non-partisan, regardless of whether Issiyeva voted for Trump or Clinton. But the vast majority of explicitly political speakers at Williams are liberal. (Surely, no one doubts that?) Would the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers be 10:1? 50:1? I would guess at least 25:1.

4) A concrete example of the bias at Williams under Falk was the refusal of the College to invite anyone with a “Republican/Sceptical” perspective on climate change to the year-long examination of the topic. In this case, the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers was infinity.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 2

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 2.

Williams College president: Don’t ignore the real threats in the debate over free speech

Authors don’t always get to choose their titles, but, in this case, I bet that Falk did. Even though Falk, personally, has done more damage to free speech at Williams than anyone else in the last century, he wants to employ some misdirection, like any good Three-card Monte hustler. “I, banner of campus speakers, am not the problem,” says Falk, “the threats are elsewhere.”

Last June, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) announced that I was unfit to be a college president, so I should resign and “put [my] head in a bag.” The insult wasn’t all that bad: In my job, you get worse. I was far more concerned by the misinformation behind the pronouncement.

Oh, Adam! You are so brave! Standing up to the brickbats of the hoi polloi. To think that you are willing to do this for only $810,821 per year. How is Williams ever going to survive without you?

The senator’s comment apparently referred to my February 2016 decision not to offer the blogger John Derbyshire the opportunity to speak on the Williams campus. Derbyshire, a self-described white supremacist, had been fired by the National Review for writing about how he would teach his children to avoid black people and advise other white parents to do the same.

How misleading can a paragraph be?

1) You banned Derbyshire from campus, forever, no matter the topic. This is much worse than a “decision not to offer” an “opportunity to speak.”

2) Calling Derbyshire a “blogger” is like calling Falk “short.” It is true that Derbyshire blogs and it is true that Falk is not the tallest Williams president in history. But, when writing in the Washington Post as the Williams president, you have an obligation to refer to your opponents politely. You should describe Derbyshire as an “author” since he has written several books with leading publishers, books that are available in the Williams libraries.

3) Derbyshire is not a “self-described white supremacist.”

I will save discussion of the “avoid black people” slur for another day.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 1

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 1.

Is Adam Falk a phony or a naif? Tough to tell. Think that is too harsh a framing? Consider just one sentence from his Washington Post article:

Today’s students are far more eager to hear and engage with serious points of view of all kinds than you would think by reading the headlines.

Really? Consider three examples from the Record:

1) Valerie Oyakhilome ’18 wrote that “the administration is able to disinvite John Derbyshire, but chose to allow [former Senator] Brown to enter into our sanctuary, incite concealed racists and further rob minority students of their sense of safety, security and agency.” Oyakhilome does not think that (liberal!) Republicans like Scott Brown should be allowed on the Williams campus.

2) Olivia Goodheart ’18 and Marissa Levin Shapiro ’18 wrote, “Students already encounter anti-feminism every day at the College, and no matter your opinion on free speech, uncomfortable learning or promoting dialogues, this is unacceptable.” Goodheart and Shapiro do not think that conservative women like Suzanne Venker, a perfectly mainstream Fox News commentator, should be allowed on the Williams campus.

3) The Record Editorial Board argued that “the College should not allow speech that challenges fundamental human rights and devalues people based on identity markers, like being a woman.” A naive observer might think that the Record was just following Adam Falk’s lead in attempting to ban nasty racists [sic] like John Derbyshire from campus. Untrue! The Record published that op-ed months ahead of the invitation to Derbyshire. They believed — and perhaps the Record still believes! — that no one to the right of, say, Scott Brown should be allowed on the Williams campus.

Now, admittedly, there are some student voices (e.g., here) at Williams in favor of open debate. But Falk is misleading his readers by pretending that there are not scores of students (hundreds of students? a majority of students?) who want to restrict debate at Williams.

So, is Falk a phony or a naif? My view is that he knows all too well how censorious current students are but that he wants to pretend that they (and their faculty teachers/enablers!) are not. He is the very model of a modern college president, committed to obfuscation when it comes to discussion about the status of open debate at places like Williams.

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Falk Libels Derbyshire

Adam Falk squawked this swan song in the Washington Post, revisiting the Senate hearing featuring Zach Wood ’18 and Frederick Lawrence ’77 which discussed Falk’s decision to cancel a Williams speech by John Derbyshire.

1) I have put the entire article below the break. Jeff Bezos is rich enough without your dollar.

2) Why write this article now? Falk has six weeks left as Williams president. His new role at the Sloane Foundation has, fortunately, nothing to do with free speech on campus. Does this article help Williams? Not that I can see. The Derbyshire cancellation, while perhaps justified, is nothing but a reputational black eye for Williams. Bringing it up again only hurts the College. He could have easily waited six months and left Williams out of the conversation.

3) Worse part of the article is Falk’s libel of John Derbyshire as a “self-described white supremacist.” If you call someone a “self-described” X, you better have evidence of him describing himself as X. Falk can write that “Derbyshire is a white supremacist” or that “Derbyshire is a poopy head.” That is Falk’s opinion. Even if he is wrong, it would be hard for Derbyshire to prove it. But it is much easier for Derbyshire to sue Falk (and Williams?) for libel given that there is no evidence that Derbyshire has ever described himself as a “white supremacist.” Perhaps some Eph attorneys could forecast how such a suit might go?

4) I asked Falk for a citation on this point. He fobbed the question off to Jim Reische, who pointed to this article. Alas, this makes the exact opposite point! Derbyshire considers a wide range of possible names for his position, including “Alternative Right,” “White Supremacist,” and “White Nationalist.” He rejects them all, settling on “Dissident Right.” If this is the best/only evidence that Falk has, I suspect he might have set himself up for some legal trouble . . . Informed commentary welcome!

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Professor Matt Carter on Best College, 3

Let’s revisit our September discussion over the (infamous) claim that the mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world and that being the best college requires admitting (and enrolling) more of the best students. Professor Matt Carter wrote a letter to the editor in the Record in response. Today is day 3 of my 3-day reply.

In truth, we know that our colleagues in the admission and financial aid offices collectively work hard to admit exceptional students who each bring unique and lasting contributions to our community.

True. And I am eager to educate Carter about the gritty realities of how that work is done. In particular, the SAT plays a major role in who gets admitted to Williams. If Carter doesn’t think that it should, he should complain to Adam Falk and Liz Creighton ’03.

We want students who will excel beyond Williams and have an impact on the world after they graduate, not students whose sole purpose for attending Williams is increasing indices on the U.S. News and World Report rankings.

The naivete here is impressive. Just how does Carter propose to look into the souls of applicants? How will he determine their motivations? How can he tell which applicants have a “sole purpose” connected to US News rankings? Good luck.

All students should know that they deserve to be here, that they are exceptional in ways that standardized test scores can’t measure and that they make Williams an outstanding college because of their presence, not despite it.

Should we also tell students to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? 8,500 students applied to Williams last year. You really think that a dozen admissions staff, as wonderful as they may be, had the time to look much beyond Academic Rating? Ha! Do the math! Each officer is looking at around 1,000 applicants! (Academic rating is calculated separately by two people.) There is no time to do much beyond that.

Ultimately, Professor Carter is a scientist so I hope he is ready to consider (and privately confirm with Liz Creighton) some facts. Williams is, right now, considering a few dozen African-American applicants as part of early decision for the class of 2022. Virtually every single one of those applicants with an AR of 4 or above will be admitted, not because there is something “exceptional” in their application which “standardized test scores can’t measure” but because Academic Rating drives Williams admissions, especially within specific categories of applicants. Similarly, not a single applicant with AR 8 or 9, African-American or otherwise, will be admitted.

Williams, today, does not have an admissions system which, to any meaningful extent, looks at items “that standardized test scores can’t measure.” That is a fantasy. Instead, Williams decides, before it sees a single application, that it wants to “admit a class that reflects national populations,” which means somewhere around 100-125 African-American and Hispanic students. It then uses Academic Rating (which is about 50% driven by standardized test scores like the SAT) to determine which African-American and Hispanic students to admit.

I have few problems with Williams people who defend the current system. My issue is with faculty members like Matt Carter who don’t understand how Williams works and then spread their ignorance in the Record.

I can actually understand why some students feel like they snuck through a selective admissions process because I occasionally experience these same feelings myself. These thoughts are common, especially at high-achieving institutions like Williams. The key is to recognize the universality of these feelings, to realize they are unproductive and to ultimately ignore them. We should do the same with Kane’s unthoughtful article.

My position on Williams admissions is the same as it was a decade ago:

Admit that smartest, most academically ambitious, English-fluent students in the world. Some will be poor, some rich. Some black, some white. Some born in India, some in Indiana. Some can play basketball, some can’t. Some will have parents who went to Williams, some will have parents who did not graduate college. None of that matters. Ignore it for admissions purposes. Look at grades, look at scores. Summarize it in the academic rating. Admit and attract the best. Williams should have more internationals, more high ARs (many of them Asian Americans), fewer tips and fewer URMs then it has today. I suspect that the ideal class of a typical Williams faculty member is much closer to my ideal class than it is to the actual student body at Williams. So, I wish that the faculty were much more involved in admissions.

The fewer admissions preferences we give — whether to athletes, URMs or students from poor families — the less common/destructive will be the feeling that a student “snuck” into Williams or does not “deserve” to be here. To the extent those feeling are common, they aren’t my fault. They are the fault of Professor Matt Carter and everyone else at Williams who insists on putting so much emphasis on non-academic factors in admissions.

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Professor Matt Carter on Best College, 2

Let’s revisit our September discussion over the (infamous) claim that the mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world and that being the best college requires admitting (and enrolling) more of the best students. Professor Matt Carter wrote a letter to the editor in the Record in response. Today is day 2 of my 3-day reply.

Therefore, the opinion piece by David Kane ’88, “What Does It Mean to be the Best?” (Sept. 20, 2017), does great disservice to our community by suggesting that some students actually don’t deserve to be here and that they gained admission for illegitimate reasons.

Hmmm. Does the word “deserve” appear in the op-ed? No. Does the word “illegitimate” appear? No. Do any synonyms of “deserve” or “illegitimate” appear? No. Professor Matt Carter is just making things up, claiming that the op-ed includes sentiments that, in fact, it does not.

Is Carter a fool or a liar? Neither! He, if he were to go back and re-read the op-ed, he would probably be honestly surprised to discover that it doesn’t say what he claims it said. For most of the Williams faculty and administration, an accurate description of the admissions process, along with a proposal to modify it, is indistinguishable from an attack on the legitimacy of (some) current students. That is a childish attitude because it makes discussion of policy change impossible.

Recall the 2002 MacDonald Report (pdf) and the 2009 Athletics Committee Report. Both argued that Williams should place less emphasis on athletic ability in admissions. Naive critics would often, like Carter, read these proposals as an attack on the legitimacy of (then) current students. But those faculty authors were not questioning whether any of the (then) current student-athletes “deserved” to Williams, just as I do not question any students today. An Eph is an Eph is an Eph. They (and I) just argue that Williams should change its policies.

Even forgetting the absurd argument that SAT scores should be the main determinant of college admissions, or that the ultimate goal of Williams is “to be the best,” Kane’s article has great potential to reinforce self-doubts and anxieties among some of our students that they snuck through the admissions process.

First, I do not argue that “SAT scores should be the main determinant of college admissions.” Carter creates so many straw men that I fear for fire safety in the Science Quad. Second, SAT (and other standardized test) scores are, along with high school grades, the most important applicant qualities in the Williams admissions process. Don’t like the fact that SAT scores are so important at Williams? Don’t blame me! Blame Adam Falk and Liz Creighton ’03. They could make the SAT (and other achievement test) optional, like Bates. They could go further and not even consider standardized test scores in admission. Falk/Creighton do none of those things because they recognize that SAT scores help Williams to select the best students.

Second, I argue that the goal of Williams is to be the best college in the world. What does Carter think the goal should be? I am honestly curious. Whatever his statement of the College’s mission, doesn’t he agree that we should admit the “best” students we can. (I assume that he does!) We might have a disagreement over how to define/measure “best,” but, until we start focusing on this sort of substance, we won’t make much progress.

Third, I agree that the article has “great potential to reinforce self-doubts and anxieties among some of our students,” just as the MacDonald Report had “great potential to reinforce self-doubts and anxieties among some of our students.” Any time we discuss the performance of students at Williams, we run that risk. Does Carter believe that we shouldn’t? Would he argue that the authors of the MacDonald Report were derelict in their responsibilities to Williams students 15 years ago?

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Professor Matt Carter on Best College, 1

Let’s revisit our September discussion over the (infamous) claim that the mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world and that being the best college requires admitting (and enrolling) more of the best students. Professor Matt Carter wrote a letter to the editor in the Record in response. Today is day 1 of my 3-day reply.

In my brief four years as a faculty member at Williams, I have been struck by the number of students whom, during one-on-one conversations with me, have confided their beliefs that somehow they “snuck into” Williams. “I only got into Williams because I’m an athlete,” some have said. “I only got into Williams because I’m an underrepresented minority.” “I only got into Williams because I’m from an underrepresented part of the country.”

Some of those students are correct. If you are an athletic tip, then you would have not gotten into Williams if you had not been on the coach’s list. Some of these students are misinformed. Although a desire for geographic diversity does exist, it plays a de minimus role in Williams admissions.

Indeed, “I only got in because _____” is more common than individual students think, and I even know of some faculty who feel the same way about their own job offers.

Luck and talent and the often mysterious preferences of opaque institutions play a role in all our lives.

Of course, from my vantage point, each of these students has not only deserved to be at Williams, but has contributed much to my courses, my lab and just about every corner of campus.

Note the subtle shift from getting in “because” of factor X to discussion of who “deserved to be at Williams.” This is sloppy and unhelpful. That athletic ability, as measured by inclusion on a coach’s list of tips, affects admissions in general, and the status of certain applicants specifically, is an statement of empirical fact. You may like it. You may not like it. But your preferences are irrelevant to the truth. Notions of who “deserved” admission are completely different. They are moral judgments. There is no necessary connection between the reality of how admissions works at Williams and the moral argument about how it should work.

For me, and I suspect for Professor Carter, every student at Williams “deserves” to be at Williams (except in extreme cases of, say, the forgery of a high school transcript). Applicants don’t make the rules. They don’t decide the policies of Williams. They submit themselves to our judgment. If they are accepted, then, almost by definition, they “deserve” to be at Williams.

Nevertheless, these feelings persist and can lead to pessimistic views that “my best work will never be as good as the students who actually deserve to be here.” I am so sad when I hear these feelings, especially because they remove a sense of optimism about assignments, exams and meaningful projects in and out of the classroom.

Whose fault is that? Not mine! The vast majority of Williams students with, say, academic ratings of 4 went to high schools with lots of applicants to Williams. They know applicants with much better grades and test scores who were rejected from Williams. For me, they “deserve” to be at Williams as much as any Eph. But, it is hardly crazy for them to wonder at the process, to worry that they will be outmatched academically in Professor Carter’s class, to suspect that their “best work will never be as good as the students” with much higher test scores and high school grades.

The average African-American student in Professor Carter’s classes has an math+verbal SAT score of around 1270. The averaged tipped athlete is at 1350. The average for the class as a whole is 1450. And, for those applicants without a hook involve race/wealth/athletics, it is probably above 1500. If that range causes problems, don’t blame me! Blame Adam Falk and Liz Creighton ’03.

Moreover, whether or not these views are “pessimistic” is another question of empirical fact, one that I urge Professor Carter not to investigate until he receives tenure in another three years. Do AR 4 and below students do as well in Professor Carter’s class as AR 1 students? I bet that they do far, far worse.

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Pell Grant, 5

Whitney Wilson ’90 points out this Washington Post article (and chart) about the rise in the percentage of Pell Grant recipients at elite schools like Williams. For background information on this topic, read this, this and our ten (!) part series from 2014. Let’s spend a week on this topic. Today is Day 5.

The lowest Pell share on the list belonged to Washington and Lee University — 6 percent. Will Dudley, who this year became president of the private Virginia liberal arts school, said the share rose to 11 percent this fall and he wants to lift it further. Dudley said he raised the issue of socioeconomic diversity at Washington and Lee when he was interviewing for the job. Previously, he was provost at Williams College, which had a far higher Pell share in 2015 — 22 percent. “If they didn’t want to make progress, they wouldn’t have hired me,” Dudley said.

Washington and Lee President Will Dudley said the university’s share grew to 11 percent this fall and he wants it to rise further.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “I don’t want to be a school that is near the bottom of the pack.”

EphBlog loves Will Dudley ’89, but this sort of prattle makes me less unhappy that he won’t be the next president of Williams.

First, admissions are, largely, a zero-sum game. Every high quality low-income student that Dudley brings to Washington and Lee is one less high quality low-income student who goes to school X. Does that really make the world a better place? I have my doubts.

Second, Washington and Lee is #10 on US News. Not bad, of course, but nowhere near the first tier, mainly because the quality of the student body is so much worse than at places like Williams/Amherst/Swarthmore.

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A better president would devote his energy toward improving the overall quality of the student body (which is not an easy thing to do!) rather than parading his virtue to the readers of the Washington Post.

Third, if I were a Washington and Lee trustee, I would challenge Dudley about his focus on Pell Grants as a meaningful measure of socio-economic diversity. It is not a bad measure, but, as we have discussed all week, it is not a particularly good measure because a) it changes over time via Congressional whim and b) it is too dependent on one specific point in the income distribution. If all Dudley has done in the last year is to replace a bunch of applicants from families who make $70,000 with other applicants whose families make $50,000 — and who would have been rejected in the past because their credentials were worse — because the latter are Pell-eligible), then he has accomplished very little, and certainly has no business bragging about it to the Post.

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A more economically diverse student body?

Interesting article in today’s Washington Post, entitled Pell Grant Shares at Top-Ranked Colleges: a sortable chart, with a number of Williams connections.   The data is based on kids who were freshman in 2015, so its a little dated, but it reports that 22% of Williams freshman in 2015 were eligible for Pell Grants from the Federal government.  This number was up from 21% in 2010.  According to the article, Williams is one of 39 schools amongst the top 100 national universities and top 50 liberal arts colleges (according to the US News and World Report rankings) which has a freshman class with at least 20% Pell Grant eligible students.

Two former Williams faculty members are quoted in the article, representing schools with (relatively) high and low numbers of Pell Grant eligible students.  According to the article, Vassar College adopted a need-blind admissions policy in 2007 and has seen its percentage of Pell Grant eligible students jump from 12% to 23%, without any decline in the academic credentials of its incoming students:

Catharine Hill [Williams Class of 1976 1977 and former provost of Williams], president of Vassar from 2006 to 2016, said the school’s record shows it is possible to broaden the demographic base of a selective college — drawing more students from low- and moderate-income families — without compromising standards. “In most cases, if you wanted to do more, you could do more,” Hill said. “All we had to do was go looking for kids. Our academic credentials actually went up.”

On the other hand, Washington and Lee University has gone in the other direction, with its percentage of Pell Grant eligible students dropping from 11% to 6% between 2010 and 2015.  Washington and Lee wants to reverse this trend, though, at least according to its new President:

Will Dudley [Williams Class of 1989 and also a former provost of Williams], who this year became president of the private Virginia liberal arts school, said the share rose to 11 percent this fall and he wants to lift it further. Dudley said he raised the issue of socioeconomic diversity at Washington and Lee when he was interviewing for the job. Previously, he was provost at Williams College, which had a far higher Pell share in 2015 — 22 percent. “If they didn’t want to make progress, they wouldn’t have hired me,” Dudley said.

The entire article and the underlying data is interesting.  No one seems to to question that the  percentage of Pell Grant eligible students is a good proxy for socio-economic diversity.  I wonder if there are different metrics to try to measure the same thing.

Should Williams make additional efforts to recruit and admit more students who are eligible for Pell Grants?

 

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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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