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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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Utter Bankruptcy of Their Concept of Diversity

A faculty member writes in:

I hope that Ephblog will publish all of the pathetic memos from the various deans and our College’s president about Trump’s victory. They all speak to the utter bankruptcy of their concept of diversity, i.e. the notion that visible diversity equals intellectual diversity. It doesn’t and never will.

1) Thanks to this faculty member and all are other contributors and readers! The EphBlog community — especially parents and alumni — appreciate hearing directly from you.

2) EphBlog has tried to cover “all of the pathetic memos.” See here and here for the latest ones. It would be great if you, or someone else, were to perform a line-by-line deconstruction.

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In Solidarity

Are non-tenured non-Hillary-voting Williams College faculty voters being pressured by their senior colleagues? Consider:

Dear Tenured Faculty of Williams College:

In light of the Presidential Election results, a few of us have drafted a letter to President Falk calling on him to declare the College a “‘sanctuary center for higher education’ committed to safeguarding to the best of our abilities the members of its community from unfair deportation, mandatory registration, surveillance, or other intimidation, and committed to providing legal, emotional, and financial support to the most vulnerable members of our community.” Similar efforts are taking place at other institutions, and so we thought we should start with our tenured faculty (though please circulate to other faculty as you see fit). The text of the letter is linked here; please consider signing your name in support of the petition.

In solidarity,
Mérida M. Rúa
Kashia Pieprzak
Mark Reinhardt
Jacqueline M. Hidalgo

1) If you were a non-tenured member of the faculty in, say, Political Science, and your tenured colleague Mark Reinhardt forwarded this message to you, would you feel pressured to sign? I would!

2) What advice would you give to non-tenured faculty? I would tell them to sign, regardless of their actual political beliefs.

3) There is so much nonsense here that I don’t know where to begin:

  • “unfair deportation” — Hasn’t the Barack Obama deported hundreds of thousands of peple?
  • “mandatory registration” — Doesn’t every male US student at Williams have to register for the draft?
  • “surveillance” — Haven’t these professor heard of Edward Snowden? Barack Obama’s NSA has been reading all your e-mails for years.

I am certainly happy to join these professors in their complaints about (at least two of) these three issues. But I am embarrassed that they saw no need to protest as long as a Democrat who they voted for was president. If you are fine with Obama’s surveillance, then you have no grounds to complain when the other side wins an election.

4) Here is the entire letter to Falk:

Dear President Falk,

Thank you for the caring and compassionate message you sent to the Williams community the morning after the election. We particularly appreciate your making clear that, “It is essential that we recommit ourselves today, as American society at large and as a Williams family here, to the fundamental respect and care for each other that underlie all healthy communities.”

Indeed the mission statement of the College affirms this commitment in stating: “To serve well our students and the world, Williams embraces core values such as welcoming and supporting in the College community people from all segments of our increasingly diverse society.” (Board of Trustees 2007).

We believe that now is the time to show how these values yield a sustainable and concrete commitment from the College at large. We worry about the physical well-being of members of this community — students, staff, and faculty — whose safety and security may be compromised due to their legal status, racial profiling, intimidation, or other serious forms of harassment. And to that end, we ask that the College publicly declare itself a “sanctuary center of higher education” committed to safeguarding to the best of our abilities the members of its community from unfair deportation, mandatory registration, surveillance, or other intimidation, and committed to providing legal, emotional, and financial support to the most vulnerable members of our community.

Through these actions, we believe, the College would further its leadership role within both the larger Berkshire community and American higher education.

Sincerely,

Should we spend a few days deconstructing this pap?

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A Path Forward, Together

To the Williams Community,

Election night brought to a conclusion the most divisive American presidential campaign in recent memory. Many members of the Williams community, including—but not limited to—women; immigrants, both documented and not; people of color; Muslims, Jews, and other religious minorities; and LGBTQ people have felt directly and deeply the rhetoric of this campaign. The rhetoric was threatening and destructive both to the individuals at whom it was aimed and to our society’s most essential values.

Even before Election Day, there had been a deep worry—which I share—that the vitriol would continue beyond the campaign season. It is essential that we recommit ourselves today, as American society at large and as a Williams family here, to the fundamental respect and care for each other that underlie all healthy communities.

On the national, state, and local levels, this means engaging in politics, each of us working as hard as we can to ensure that the laws, policies, and practices of our government reflect concern for everyone in our world.

Here at Williams, it means renewing our commitment, as we should do every single day, to a fully inclusive, equitable community in which everyone can thrive. It means treating each other with deep respect, as we attend particularly to those who feel most vulnerable in this, or any, moment.

I’m inspired by the ways I see our community already seeking to unite this morning, and I’m reminded once more of the fundamental relevance of a Williams education. Our work—to educate global citizens who are informed and empowered to lead and who feel a responsibility to help create the community we all most fervently desire to live in—today seems more important than ever.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

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Concerning

roberts

Betting markets are at 50/50. Stay tuned!

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On SCS Forms and Teaching Evaluations

Much of the best content at EphBlog is almost a decade old. Consider this comment from Professor James McAlister about Student Course Survey forms:

Ronit’s argument that SCS forms should not be the primary determinant of teaching quality is dead wrong. What are the alternatives? You could have professors determine teaching quality, but in this case I suspect many professors would be tenured or denied tenure simply because of how their colleagues view them in the classroom. What professors view as good teaching is likely to be substantialy different than what students view as effective teaching. In fact, the entire incentive structure would lead professors to teach in a manner designed to impress fellow profs than it would be designed to impress students. I can understand why professors might prefer this system, but why students should advocate such a system is beyond me. There is a reason why places such as Harvard have some brilliant researchers who are terrible teachers–their fate does not depend at all on students. Why would we want Williams to adopt a system in which professors would not have any interest in how students assess their teaching?

As Morty likes to say, anecdotes are not evidence. Even the worst professors at Williams have their defenders and the best their detractors. Without the SCS forms, tenure would become a process in which such anecdotes become all important. What the SCS system does is to quantify individual assessments into meaningful numbers that can be used for real comparisons.

The last point I would like to make is that many people seem to feel that profs can game the system by awarding high grades and giving students little work. As anyone who has ever seen SCS data would verify, Williams students generally punish professors who are not demanding in their expectations. The other thing to note is that the SCS forms capture such efforts. A prof who has great teaching scores, but is getting them on the basis of inflating grades and not assigning work (that does happen)is not fooling anyone. If a professor was unable to get good teaching scores without high grades and substantial requirements that would be duly noted in any review. It is also true that it would be noted if a professor received somewhat lower teaching scores but was a tough grader and had high standards.

No one would deny that there are problems in all forms of teacher assessments, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill on democracy, it is the best system of all for both students, profs, and administrators.

Indeed. The entire thread is worth reading. There is a great senior thesis to be written evaluating some of the factual claims that McAllister makes above. Any chance that the Administration would allow a student to access this data? I doubt it.

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Diversity and Equity Forum V

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 5.

Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell then shared some statistics regarding the College’s efforts to diversify the faculty. Of last year’s 13 newly hired tenure-track faculty members, nine identify as persons of color, and 10 are women.

Are you a white male interested in a faculty position at an elite college? Your chances are much worse than you think. Williams would much rather higher a woman or a person of color or, ideally, someone who is both.

The Record’s reporting does not really line up with College’s announcements (here and here). Professor Buell kindly provided me with this clarification.

There are actually 15 tenure-track faculty beginning this year (some were hired prior to last year’s hiring season and some folks hired last year have deferred their start dates). Of those 15, 9 identify as people of color and 11 as women. For purposes of institutional reporting, we are now keeping track of the stats for each entering cohort, so this is probably the best information to report out.

During the 15-16 hiring season itself, the college hired 16 faculty members into tenure-track positions. 12/16 identify as faculty members of color and 12/16 identify as women. But what [you] may be citing refers to the results of hiring from national searches. During the 2015-16 academic year, Williams College hired 13 tenure-track faculty into 11 academic departments and programs from national searches. 9/13 identify as persons of color; 10/13 are women. 3 additional tenure-track faculty members were hired through opportunity appointment requests.

Below the break are links for all the new faculty. Comments:

1) The Record could do a fun article comparing the qualifications of the white male hires versus the POC female hires. Even more fun would be interviewing Administration officials about what the comparison should show! The trap is that Williams wants us to believe two contradictory things: first, that the qualifications are the same and, second, that the College gives preferences to POC/female hires. Both can’t be true!

2) No time today for detailed racial bean counting, but it is unclear how Buell gets to 9 POC starting this year. Some googling suggests that this number might include: Chen, Constantine, Ford, Harris, Saint-Just and Tokeshi.

fac

But what about Eqeiq, Nassif, Singh and Yacoob?

fac2

This is 10 (plausible?) POC, without even trying to figure out if any of the other new faculty and have a grandfather from Spain.

3) As always, the fun is in the details. Should someone with Indian (from India) ancestry be classified as Caucasion or Asian, either according to the US Census (yes) or to Williams College (as long as they check the box)?

4) The most important potential change to these numbers concerns the proposal to include a MENA designation on the next census. This would allow people from the Middle East and North Africa to select a category other than “white.” If this passes, then there would, in an instant, be a much higher percentage of POC faculty at Williams. Or does Williams already count faculty from MENA countries as POC?

5) Since MENA includes Israel, it would not be unreasonable for an American Jew of European descent to check the MENA box since his ancestry derives, ultimately, from the Middle East. The Williams faculty could, in this scenario, be majority POC by 2020!

Read more

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EphBlog Loves Provost Love

EphBlog loves new Williams Provost Dukes Love. Why? Recall our recurrent complaints about transparency with regard to already published College documents, like the Common Data Set reports. Formerly, Williams only provided the reports back to 2011. Now, it provides an archive back to 1998. Well done Provost Love!

But because this era of Perestroika might end, EphBlog has taken the precaution of saving permanent copies: cds_2010-11, cds_2009-10, cds_2008-09, cds_2007-08, cds_2005-06, cds_2006-07, cds_2004-05, cds_2003-04, cds_2002-03, cds_2001-02, cds_2000-01, cds_1999-00 and cds_1998-99.

It is especially nice to see a provost committed to transparency as Williams begins the re-accreditation process. Long time readers will recall that we devoted the month of January 2009 to going through the last re-accredidation report. Alas, we did not save a copy! Is one available somewhere?

UPDATE: A loyal reader points to this archive of material related to accreditation. Thanks! And kudos to Williams for making this material available even a decade later. Anyone interested in following this round of accreditation should study the last round closely.

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Crowe ’03 on Trump

Professor Justin Crowe ’03 speaks with high school students about Donald Trump. He is a braver man than I!

Got views on the election or tonight’s debate? Share them in this thread.

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Paul’s Questions on Faculty Growth III

Professor Darel Paul has some questions about the College’s claims about faculty/staff growth since 2002. Let’s spend 3 days answering them. Today is Day 3.

I can say definitively that the faculty of the Political Science Department has not grown 31% since 2002. In fact, since the 2002-03 academic year it has grown either 7% (# of tenured and tenure-track professors) or 0% (# of tenured, tenure-track, and visiting professors, plus visiting fellows) depending on your definition of faculty.

Can we confirm Professor Paul’s numbers? From the 2002–2003 course catalog (pdf), we have:

ps2002

I count 20 faculty members: 15 tenured/tenure-track (TTT) and 5 other. Compare that to 2016–2017 (pdf):

ps2016

I count 19 faculty members: 16 TTT and 3 others. That sure doesn’t look like the 31% faculty growth that the College is bragging about. Instead, in Political Science at least, there has been a 5% drop in faculty. Comments:

1) Not sure why Professor Paul sees total political science faculty as steady whereas I see a 5% drop. Suggestions?

2) Notice how top-heavy (old?) the Political Science Department has become. We have gone from 7 to 10 full professors. This is consistent with the analysis we looked at last winter. For fun, we might use that code department-by-department. I would not be surprised if the average age of faculty members in political science has increased from 45 to 50 since 2002. Not that there is anything wrong with being 50!

3) The basic story is the same as it has been for 50 years. Recall my rants from 6 years ago (start here, finish there). Key point:

EphBlog’s Maxim #6: Every hire of a senior administrator weakens faculty governance.

If Professor Paul and other faculty members want to truly “govern” Williams than they should draw a line in the sand. No increases in senior staff! My guess is that they don’t truly care. They like to complain and whine (nothing wrong with that!) but, when push comes to shove, they will roll over for this increase just liked they rolled over for the hiring of Steve Klass, Collette Chilton, Mike Reed and on and on.

4) Should we spend more time on this topic?

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Paul’s Questions on Faculty Growth II

Professor Darel Paul has some questions about the College’s claims about faculty/staff growth since 2002. Let’s spend 3 days answering them. Today is Day 2.

How are faculty defined here? Does it include visiting faculty? Visiting fellows, lecturers, and teaching associates who frequently teach only part-time?

My experience with the (highly competent!) people in the Administration who keep track of this data — folks like Courtney Wade, James Cart ’05 and John Gerry — is that there are sensible answers to Paul’s questions. The Administration needs to answer all sorts of related queries from various outside organizations — US News, the NCAA, the US Government — so it keeps careful track of these details. Perhaps the College could clarify for Paul?

Although there nothing wrong with diving into these details, they miss the central debate: Should the faculty have more or less control over what happens at Williams? The major move over the last 50 years — perhaps accelerating during the Falk administration? — has been to make the faculty less powerful relative to the administration/president. The Record‘s reporting is particularly blind to this dynamic. (Actually, the whole article deserves a thorough fisking. Would readers be interested?) Consider just one sentence:

In addition, faculty governance will remain intact because the new dean will report to the provost, a member of the faculty

Faculty governance at Williams is about as intact as Iraqi sovereignty. Just because someone reports to some other person does not necessarily make the reported-to more powerful than the reportee, especially when the provosts come-and-go while the senior staff stays put. (Essay assignment: Compare “faculty governance at Williams” with Yes, Minister.)

Ignore the new position and consider the reality of the power wielded by, say, Steve Klass, vice president for campus life. He gets paid 100% more than the typical faculty member at Williams. He has had orders of magnitude more conversations with Adam Falk (and powerful trustees) than even the most senior of Williams faculty. (Don’t believe me? Ask them!). In theory, Williams has “faculty governance” because Klass “reports” to Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom. But does he really? Does she evaluate his work? Have a meaningful say in his compensation? I have my doubts.

But, as always, the dollars tell the tale. Steve Klass was paid (pdf) a total of $367,428 in fiscal year 2014. Then Dean of the College Sarah Bolton was paid $278,656. Who do you think reports to whom in that relationship?

If the Record were a competent paper, it would do a story about who is paid how much at Williams. There is a lot to write about!

UPDATE: A reader points out that Klass does not now report to the Dean of the College. In fact, he has always reported directly to the president, first Schapiro and now Falk. Of course, this makes claims about “faculty governance” at Williams even weaker! The College has a bunch (5? 10? 15?) of well-paid professionals who report to no member of the faculty other than the president. This was not the case 30 years ago . . .

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Paul’s Questions on Faculty Growth I

Professor Darel Paul has some questions about the College’s claims about faculty/staff growth since 2002. Let’s spend 3 days answering them. Today is Day 1.

It would be nice to see comparisons of the numbers of full-time equivalent faculty to full-time equivalent senior staff over the 2002-2016 period. I don’t think anyone suspects the number of custodians or dining service workers per student is ballooning across American higher education.

Indeed! Faculty like Paul are not overly concerned about the number of custodians that Williams employs. They are concerned about the ranks of senior staff. The trick (?) that the College pulls is to mix the senior hires — like the proposed Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid — in with the custodians and use the overall total as the divisor.

Doing some math, we can calculate that the college increased the faculty by 81 since 2002 and the staff by 138. So, a different (better?) summary would be that staff has grown 70% more ((138 – 81)/81) than faculty. It makes less (?) sense to divide both these numbers by their starting values since what we really care about is the absolute level of growth. Every new staff member hired means that we can hire one less new faculty member. Those 138 staff could have been, say, 100 new faculty members (given that faculty members make, on average, more than staff).

Given that scores of faculty members (like Paul) object to this trend, why is it continuing? Why is Williams about to add to its bureaucracy even though, by all accounts, the current heads of admissions (Nesbit) and financial aid (Boyer) do a fine job?

1) Bureaucracies always grow. This is not a Williams-specific phenomenon or even just a high education phenomenon. This happens everywhere. Fighting this tendency would be my number one priority if I were a Williams trustee. The easiest way to fight it would be to institute a cap on the total number of employees. Williams has 1204 (!) faculty and staff. That is more than enough!

2) Adam Falk wants to hire more senior administrators. He did this when he started (Steve Klass, Fred Puddester, Angela Shaeffer and so on). He has promoted these people, slowly giving them more and more power, relative to the faculty. Creating a new position like Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid is just another step down that road.

UPDATE: A reader points out that this very sloppy, for several reasons. First, Steve Klass was already at Williams. Falk did not hire him. Second, it is, at least, disputable whether or not the power of the senior staff has grown during Falk’s tenure. Puddester does, more or less, what Helen Oullette used to do. Schaefer was a replacement, first for Jo Proctor (who EphBlog misses!) and now for Jim Kolesar. Fair points!

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Neutral Space

deface
An anonymous Williams professor points to this Daily Message:

Basquiat and Black Lives Matter at WCMA
Jean Michel-Basquiat’s painting “Defacement” becomes the focal point of WCMA’s Reading Room and the centerpiece of a series of conversations about police brutality, Black identity, and the Black Lives Matter movement. If you or your group are interested in hosting a conversation in the space please click for more info …

The professor comments:

Just what the College needs. A nice neutral space for a quiet, rational, dispassionate discussion of policing black communities. . .

Indeed!

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