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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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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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Eisenson ’77 on Falk Departure

At 12:53 pm yesterday, just 19 minutes after Falk’s all campus email:

To the Williams Community,

I write, on behalf of the Williams College Board of Trustees and with mixed emotion, to officially confirm that Adam Falk will leave Williams at the end of 2017 to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The College has flourished under Adam’s leadership. We have sustained and, indeed, enhanced our position as a national leader in liberal arts education. We have maintained our commitment to providing access to the broadest possible spectrum of exceptional students, attracting ever increasing talent and diversity to our campus. We have had great success recruiting accomplished and highly sought-after new members to join our outstanding faculty ranks and, as well, Adam has built a deep and effective senior leadership team. Our campus is undergoing an ambitious, carefully-orchestrated renewal, with superb new facilities, including the Sawyer Library and a major new center for the sciences, positioning us for the next fifty years, while reflecting a purposeful commitment to managing our carbon footprint. Our alumni and friends have set the historic Teach It Forward campaign well on the path to achieving our ambitious goals, and the College’s finances are in all ways very sound.

Adam has been an exceptionally fine president for Williams. He has demonstrated a keen ability to appreciate and retain the best of Williams traditions, while encouraging the College to grow through a genuine openness to innovation, always with the education and wellbeing of our students foremost in mind. His departure will be a loss for the College and our community, and I will personally miss his wisdom, his friendship, and his deeply thoughtful and principled leadership. At the same time, he will be leaving at a time when the College is as strong, secure and thriving as it has ever been and the Board of Trustees is completely confident that Williams will attract another exceptional talent to lead us into the next decade.

Adam’s last day at Williams will be December 31, 2017. The Board has approved the formation of a search committee, and I have been appointed as its chair. In that capacity I will be back in touch later this Summer with information about the search process. We will organize various opportunities in the Fall for the community to thank Adam for his service and wish him well. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Adam on his exciting next adventure and in making the most of his remaining time in the Purple Valley.

Best regards,
Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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Falk Steps Down

Today at 12:34 pm:

To the Williams community,

I’m writing to share with you the news that, at the end of December, I will leave Williams to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York.

I arrived in the Purple Valley in April of 2010, and the ensuing years have been among the most gratifying of my career. It makes me genuinely happy, looking back, to see what together we’ve achieved. Williams is attracting even greater numbers of passionate, insightful and diverse students. We’re making this place accessible to people who couldn’t consider coming here otherwise. We’re renewing our campus and making major investments in its sustainability. We’re hiring and supporting the deeply committed faculty and staff who define this college. And our loyal alumni are giving and volunteering in ways that help students thrive at Williams and build successful and rewarding lives after graduation.

Why would anyone leave such a place, at such a time? There are few opportunities that could have drawn me away. But it’s a familiar irony that the best time for a school to recruit a new president isn’t during a period of stagnation or trial, but at a time of vitality and promise. When the Sloan Foundation approached me a short while ago to lead their extraordinary institution, I was only able to consider this invitation to pursue other passions of mine—science and graduate education, among them—because I knew I’d be leaving Williams at such a vibrant moment in its history.

There will be no coasting during my remaining months on the job: we have much to accomplish together. Among my goals for this fall are the successful conclusion of our decennial reaccreditation process, raising support for Williams through the Teach It Forward campaign, continuing to advance the Science Center project, and paving the way for a smooth transition for my eventual successor.

December will come soon enough. And when it does I’ll miss Williams, and all of you, deeply. Thank you for the affection this community has shown me, and for the good work we’ve all been able to do together over these eight years.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President, Williams College

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Falk Responds to Senator Kennedy, 2

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 4.

Continuing our examination of Falk’s “interview” in Time magazine:

Falk said universities across the country have been tested by “the toxic political culture that all of us are currently swimming in,” but he believes Williams has remained a welcoming place for public debate.

Paging George Orwell! Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Truth. And Williams is a “welcoming place for public debate.” Recall the official editorial position of the Williams Record:

Though Venker’s speech is legally protected, the College, as a private institution, has its own set of rules about what discourse is acceptable. In general, the College should not allow speech that challenges fundamental human rights and devalues people based on identity markers, like being a woman.

If the college paper wants to ban Suzanne Venker — or anyone who disagrees with feminist orthodoxy? — and the college president has no problem banning a speaker, then, whatever its other merits, that school is not “a welcoming place for public debate.”

Back to the Time interview:

“There are things in the broader culture that have changed. We are a much more combative political culture,” Falk said. “Our campuses are more civil than what you get when you turn on your TV or open your Twitter feed.”

Perhaps true, but mostly irrelevant. Falk is not responsible for the larger culture. But he does bear some responsibility for the culture at Williams, and that includes the fashion in which some Williams students treat other Williams students on-line. Recall the sort of abuse that Zach Wood and the other students behind Uncomfortable Learning were subject to:

When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ you are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students, but you are also—paying—for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters. You are giving those who spout violence the money that so desperately needs to be funneled to black and brown (trans) femme communities, to people who are leading the revolution, who are surviving in the streets, who are dying in the streets. Know, you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood.

That this occurred on Facebook, rather than in person, does not disguise the fact that Williams is a college in which some students will attack other students in the most extreme fashion, for the simple sin of bringing a speaker to campus. The President of Williams ought to do something about that, other than blaming Twitter.

Back to Time:

During the hearing, as Senators debated First Amendment issues that have riled campuses from Middlebury to Berkeley this year, they continued to ask where the line should be drawn between speech that is protected and prohibited. Falk said visiting speakers should “contribute to a serious intellectual discussion of serious ideas,” adding that the college doesn’t have an obligation to host speakers, like Derbyshire, who aim only to provoke.

Falk’s mind-reading powers are impressive! How can he possibly know what is in John Derbyshire’s heart? It is true that there are figures on the right — Milo Yiannopoulos? Richard Spencer? — to whom the “aim only to provoke” attack might apply. But Derbyshire is not one of them. He is an straight-laced, non-shouting, hyper-reasonable intellectual, a published author with an impressive range of interests. He is certainly a “racist” — at least as Adam Falk would define that term — but he is every bit an intellectual as the average member of the Williams faculty.

“It has always been the responsibility of the administration at a university to foster an environment where discourse around a wide variety of ideas expressed by a wide variety of people is effective and flourishes. That’s part of what we do to run a college and university. And that work is much more complex than simply, in an indiscriminate way, giving a platform to anyone who wants to speak,” Falk said.

Williams, as an institution, does not give a “platform” to anyone. Specific people at Williams invite speakers. The question is: Can students (or faculty!) invite John Derbyshire, or anyone else that Falk disagrees with?

“Freedom of speech is a fundamental value of society, and it’s a fundamental value on our campuses. But we also have to create conditions where that speech is civil and the dialogue that it spawns is productive.”

Agreed. So why doesn’t Falk do his job and make this happen?

While state lawmakers are considering legislation to regulate student protesters and discipline hecklers, Falk said such measures are unnecessary.

“We do our best to manage these challenges,” he said. “But they’re not existential, they’re not unprecedented.”

Agreed. The last thing we right-wing Ephs want is a stronger federal government. Washington should leave Williams alone.

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Falk Responds to Senator Kennedy, 1

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 3.

President Adam Falk provides a response, of sorts, to the call for his resignation (from Senator Kennedy) in this puffball Time interview:

The president of Williams College is defending his decision to cancel a controversial speech at the school last year, after he came under fire during a Senate hearing this week about the “assault on the First Amendment on college campuses.”

A perfectly good lede, although pendants will note that Falk did not merely “cancel” a speech; he banned John Derbyshire from ever speaking at Williams, on any topic. But, as always at EphBlog, we want the backstory. How did Falk decide to talk to Time rather than some other outlet? How did 24-year-old reporter Katie Reilly end up with the assignment?

Williams College President Adam Falk did not attend the Senate judiciary committee hearing on Tuesday, but Williams student Zach Wood did, and Wood testified about what he sees as a lack of politically and ideologically diverse speakers at the Massachusetts private school, where he said “the administration promotes social tolerance at the expense of political tolerance.”

Isn’t that exactly right? Williams, as an institution, is firmly committed to social tolerance, to all the appropriate progressive fashions. We get our pronouns and our bathrooms right! Falk is, obviously, not committed to political tolerance for anyone to the right of, say, George Bush.

Last year, Wood invited conservative writer John Derbyshire — who wrote a 2012 column for an online magazine that was widely criticized as racist, leading to his firing from the National Review — to speak on campus. Falk canceled the event, saying Derbyshire’s comments “clearly constitute hate speech.”

Falk’s reasoning was shallow, at best. But I have yet to provide a sentence-by-sentence exegesis. Save that for September?

More importanly, Derbyshire was not planning to speak on topics related to that controversy. Instead, his speech was going to be about immigration. Uncomfortably Learning informed Falk and the Administration about this. So, Falk’s position seems to be that if Speaker X ever says something hateful about Topic Y, then he will be banned from talking about Topic Z (or any other topic) at Williams. presumably forever. Falk doesn’t just want to ban hate speech. He wants to ban anyone who has ever uttered hate speech.

It is at this point that the careful reader starts to suspect a set up. Did Reilly ask any difficult questions? Did she have any follow ups? Did she speak with any of Falk’s critics, including Wood? I suspect not. Reilly is acting — perhaps in the best tradition of Time magazine? — as a stenographer to power. Her job is not to trouble Falk. Her job is to spin for him.

Responding to Wood’s testimony, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy on Tuesday called Falk unfit to lead the school. “If the way you described it is accurate, then he should resign,” Kennedy said. “It’s just that simple — because he needs to explain to students and have them understand that they do not have a constitutional right in life not to be offended. They’re going to be offended plenty of times in life.”

Indeed. Even if Falk believes — and I have no reason to doubt his claims on this score — that Derbyshire, along with the rest of the Alt (or Dissident) Right, is guilty of hate speech, he is hardly doing Williams students any favors by barring that speech from campus. With Trump in the White House — and Miller/Bannon behind the scenes — the Alt-Right matters.

In an interview with TIME after the hearing, Falk defended himself, saying he believed Kennedy had misunderstood the situation.

If Falk really believes that, he is a fool. If he doesn’t, he is a knave. Wood provide Kennedy with an accurate summary of the facts: a student group invited Derbyshire and Falk banned him from speaking. The Record ought to follow up by calling Senator Kennedy’s office for more back-and-forth.

Perhaps more importantly: Who is advising Falk? There are politically smart ways out of the ditch he has dug for Williams (and himself). Implying that a US Senator is clueless is not the approach to take.

UPDATE: Instead, he should follow this advice from an EphBlog reader:

Praise Uncomfortable Learning. Point out the service they provide, commit to helping them continue, highlight the very respectful appearance and treatment of Charles Murray at Williams College, point out some of the other groups and faculty who have committed to expanding discussions on campus (Williams Forum, new College Republicans, the event with Scott Brown, etc.).

This is pretty simple PR. Add some money to the mix and write a piece for WSJ or NYT. Here is a similar piece from the Wesleyan president.

Exactly right. Odds on Falk doing so?

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Senator Kennedy Calls for Adam Falk’s Resignation

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 2.

When was the last time a US Senator called for the resignation of the president of Williams College? Last week!

I can’t figure out how to excerpt a portion of the video, but this is the key exchange, between Zach Wood ’18 and Senator Kennedy.

ken1

I am not sure that this is fair to Suzanne Venker, or to Adam Falk. First, Venker has never argued that women “should be kept at home.” She argues that the insistence, by some feminists, that women need to work outside the home is nuts. She is “anti-feminists” in the sense that she disagrees with many of the positions that most/all feminists take, not that she disagrees with everything they say. Of course, Zach is speaking off the cuff (in the Senate!), so we should cut him some slack.

Second, Falk had nothing to do with the Venker cancellation. (Zach knows this, of course, but probably felt that he was not well-placed to correct a Senator in mid-rant.) However, given Falk’s behavior in regards to Derbyshire, I am now annoyed about the Administration’s preening about how, of course, they were sad that the students themselves cancelled Venker in the face of the Facebook mob.

ken2

Good stuff! Can anyone provide a link that goes to directly to this part of the video? Can anyone remember the last time a US Senator discussed the performance of a Williams College president? We have already determined (?) that the last Williams president to ban a speaker was Mark Hopkins preventing Ralph Waldo Emerson from coming to campus 150 years ago. Let’s play another SAT analogy game:

Kennedy:Falk :: ?:?

Also, what advice do you have for Falk on how to handle this?

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Time Magazine Article on Falk/Derbyshire

When was the last time a sitting senator (!) called on a Williams College President to resign? In a Senate hearing?! Check out Time Magazine’s latest article on Williams, “Williams College President Rejects Claim That He Blocked Free Speech On Campus“.

Responding to Wood’s testimony, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy on Tuesday called Falk unfit to lead the school. “If the way you described it is accurate, then he should resign,” Kennedy said. “It’s just that simple — because he needs to explain to students and have them understand that they do not have a constitutional right in life not to be offended. They’re going to be offended plenty of times in life.”

Emphasis mine.

And for that matter, when was the last time a Williams student took part in the investigations of a Senate judiciary hearing committee? Similar to the Washington Post piece from months ago, this piece reads like it was written by Falk’s worst enemies. Consider:

Williams College President Adam Falk did not attend the Senate judiciary committee hearing on Tuesday, but Williams student Zach Wood did, and Wood testified about what he sees as a lack of politically and ideologically diverse speakers at the Massachusetts private school, where he said “the administration promotes social tolerance at the expense of political tolerance.”

Is there anyone (except Falk) who still disagrees with this? I don’t!

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Do Your Job

From the Eagle:

Williams College President Adam Falk has joined Williams College with hundreds of other entities committing to the Paris climate accords following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the international agreement to cut carbon emissions.

Falk signed on to the “We Are Still In” statement last week, joining more than 1,200 governors, mayors, businesses, investors and higher education leaders from across the U.S. who declared their intent to continue to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing carbon emissions.

The “We Are Still In” statement calls the Trump administration’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris agreement one that “undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change [and a move which is] out of step with what is happening in the United States.”

The statement can be found at www.wearestillin.com.

Falk said Williams’ commitment to addressing climate change, outlined in a set of initiatives developed and approved by the board of trustees in 2015, will continue as the campus community works toward achieving sustainable carbon neutrality by the end of 2020.

1) Instead of wasting time with virtue signalling, why doesn’t Falk do his job? Consider the example of the scores of students forced out of data sciency courses like STAT 201 and CSCI 135. These are great courses. But, precisely because of their quality and popularity, enrollment has been capped. It would be easy for Falk to do something about this, to authorize these departments to hire a visiting assistant professor or two to offer a few extra sections. The fact that he has failed to do so is evidence that he is prioritizing the wrong things as Williams president.

2) Is there any actual substance to this pledge? From the press release: “The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them.” In other words, Williams could participate in this agreement even if it planned on doubling its emissions.

3) Is there a realistic plan for Williams to attain “carbon neutrality by the end of 2020?” Color me skeptical! Williams feeds and houses 2,000 people. That takes a lot of carbon! Anyone have links to the plan?

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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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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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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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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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Why Williams College’s President Canceled a Speech

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Dear Mr. Wood,

While I am not interested in an extended dialogue with the National Association of Scholars regarding matters at Williams College, I am prepared to give a brief response to your question about John Derbyshire’s canceled appearance here. To that end, please see his opinion piece “The Talk: Non-Black Version.” This article was considered so racist by the National Review (no bastion of left-wing orthodoxy, I assure you) that upon its publication the editors severed their association with Derbyshire and refused him further access to their pages. Typical of its content is the following excerpt, in the form of advice to “nonblack” children:

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

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

As for Derbyshire’s views on white supremacy, I would point you to the following passage that appeared on the website VDare:

“Leaving aside the intended malice, I actually think ‘White Supremacist’ is not bad semantically. White supremacy, in the sense of a society in which key decisions are made by white Europeans, is one of the better arrangements History has come up with. There have of course been some blots on the record, but I don’t see how it can be denied that net-net, white Europeans have made a better job of running fair and stable societies than has any other group.”

Frankly, this is the kind of material I would expect to see distributed by organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Derbyshire’s rhetoric, as typified in these passages, isn’t the explication of provocative, challenging or contrary ideas. To speak to what I’m sure is a particular concern of the National Association of Scholars, his work on race isn’t remotely scholarly. Derbyshire simply provokes. His racist bile would have added nothing to the complicated and challenging conversations occurring every day on our campus, across a wide range of ideologies and experiences. No educational purpose of any kind would have been served by his appearance at Williams.

I hope this clarifies matters.

Yours,

Adam Falk

Related article and discussion here.

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The Mural Stays

Black-Rm-1-AT-1024x680

Adam Falk has decided to keep the log mural.

Last semester, I convened a committee to consider historical representations on campus, chaired by Professor of History Karen Merrill. I asked the group to bring recommendations about what principles should guide us as we think about portrayals of our history and, more specifically, what, if anything, should be done about particular pieces that may be of concern.

As you all know, the first task undertaken by the committee has been to consider the mural in the Black Room of the Log that I had temporarily covered back in the fall. I’m pleased to write now with the news that I am accepting the recommendations of the committee, which were shared with me at the end of last week and are available in full on the committee’s website. Those recommendations call for the mural to remain in place at the Log, accompanied by a caption describing the historical event depicted in the mural. The committee also recommended adding contextual information in the Black Room about the campus conversation that has taken place this year about the mural and related issues and questions. Working with its members and others on campus with relevant expertise, the committee will be responsible for producing the caption and contextual content, and we expect that content to be in place in the Log by the end of the summer.

Kudos to Falk, Merrill and the rest of the committee. The decision — and the process which led to it — is an example of Williams at its best.

There are lots of details to work through. Should we spend a week on it?

Entire e-mail below the break.
Read more

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End of Year Falk E-mail

Adam Falk’s end of the year e-mail includes lots of news. Should we spend a week going through it? Tell us what you want readers! One highlight:

As I look back on the extraordinary success of the campaign in this first year of its public phase, I must share some bittersweet news, which is that our campaign’s chief architect has accepted an exciting new professional opportunity. Vice President for College Relations John Malcolm ’86 will take on the role of chief development officer at the Boston-based Partners in Health (PIH).

Losing your chief fund-raiser in the middle of your big capital campaign is either extremely bad luck or a sign of less-than-climb-high competence. Malcolm was an exceptional rainmaker. He had spent the last 5 (?) years building relationships with all the richest Ephs. This is example #103 of why the College ought to do a better job of screening/hiring/retaining employees who want to make a career commitment to Williams.

With luck, Malcolm’s departure won’t matter. I hope that he lassoed most of his targeted big givers during the quiet portion of the campaign and that his departure won’t cause them to renege.

Entire e-mail below the break:
Read more

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Tuition Update

All campus e-mail about tuition:

To the Classes of 2017, 2018, and 2019,

I am writing with information about the college’s financial planning for the coming year.

The money we spend on your education every year comes from three main sources: what we take from the endowment, what you and your families pay, and what we receive as gifts for current use. To sustain the endowment in perpetuity, each year we aim to spend no more than 5 percent of its value. That money plus gifts for current use represent 59 percent of our revenue.

Virtually all the rest comes from student charges. After projecting revenue from endowment and gifts, we calculate that to provide a Williams-quality education in the coming year will require a comprehensive fee that grows by 3.46 percent. That’s the ninth year in a row of declining rates of increase.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Tuition $51,490
Board 6,760
Room 6,930
Activities and Residential House Fees 300

Total $65,480

This total falls in the middle of those at peer institutions.

Our financial aid program will remain among the strongest anywhere, and if you think that you may be among those who now qualify for aid for the first time, please contact the financial aid office as soon as possible.

We’re fortunate at Williams to have the support of our relatively large endowment and of the exceptional generosity of our alumni, parents, and friends. At the same time, we understand the financial sacrifices that your families make to provide you with an education. In a recent letter similar to this one, I thanked them again for those sacrifices, and I suggest that this might be good moment for you to do the same.

Sincerely yours,
Adam Falk
President

Comments:

1) “That’s the ninth year in a row of declining rates of increase.” Could only be written by a physicist! So, although the first derivative is positive, the second is negative? Or is it different in dollars as opposed to percentages? Help us out, Eph Math Mavens!

2) Williams is a luxury good. Once you realize that fact, it is obvious that bragging about low rates of increase in the sticker price is stupid. You never read about Gucci or Prada doing that! Indeed, perhaps the single most costly financial mistake by a NESCAC school was Middlebury’s tuition “freeze” five years ago. Williams is smart, at least, to avoid that mistake. Virtue signally can be an expensive hobby.

3) The best strategy is not to aim for the middle of “peer institutions.” Instead, charge at the top of the range. This indicates high quality to poorly informed customers, provides more resources for improving the actual quality, and gauges as much money as possible from the global 1%. What is not to like?!

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What Charles Murray Believes

Charles Murray will be speaking at Williams tomorrow. Professor Nate Kornell comments:

The next speaker in the [Uncomfortable Learning] series is Charles Murray. I’m glad he was invited because whether you agree with him or not, he raises important questions that push students and faculty alike to think hard.

“Important questions,” huh? Tell that to the current crop of social justice warriors at Williams, people like Sam Alterman ’18 and Professor Sam Crane. From their point of view, Murray is every bit as bad as Derbyshire because he believes that there are important genetic differences between human races — differences that are much more than skin deep — differences which help to explain, among many other things, why Japan is a much nicer place to live than Nigeria.

Consider Murray’s review of Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History.

The problem facing us down the road is the increasing rate at which the technical literature reports new links between specific genes and specific traits. Soon there will be dozens, then hundreds, of such links being reported each year. The findings will be tentative and often disputed—a case in point is the so-called warrior gene that encodes monoamine oxidase A and may encourage aggression. But so far it has been the norm, not the exception, that variations in these genes show large differences across races. We don’t yet know what the genetically significant racial differences will turn out to be, but we have to expect that they will be many. It is unhelpful for social scientists and the media to continue to proclaim that “race is a social construct” in the face of this looming rendezvous with reality.

Indeed. From the Record:

Murray, author of The Bell Curve, is scheduled to come to the College this spring. He believes that race and class are linked to intelligence. Falk has no plans to cancel Murray’s visit.

“It’s actually instructive to compare [him] directly with Derbyshire. Charles Murray has never written anything, to my knowledge, like Derbyshire’s ‘The Talk.’ I don’t agree with what he says, I haven’t agreed with much of what he has said for 20 years, but he’s a scholar,” Falk said. He hopes that people start a civil and constructive argument with Murray when he comes.

Good luck! When it comes to race/genetics/{intelligence,criminality,empathy,etc}, Murray and Derbyshire are identical. Genetics has a huge influence on most personal characteristics. Those genetics differ across races. Therefore, . . .

Think this is nothing but right-wing racist nonsense, correctly relegated to the dirtiest sewers on the web? Think again, starting with Sunday’s Boston Globe:

The effects of genetic differences make some people more impulsive and shortsighted than others, some people more healthy or infirm than others, and, despite how uncomfortable it might be to admit, genes also make some folks more likely to break the law than others.

Charles Murray believes that genetics cause criminality (along with the Boston Globe) and genetics differ among races (along with Nicholas Wade). Therefore, he believes, at a minimum, that it is possible that races differ in their genetic predispositions to criminality. In fact, Murray almost certainly goes full Derbyshire and believes that different racial groups have different genetic predispositions to criminality and that this, among other factors, helps to explain why Japan is a much nicer place to live than Nigeria.

This is the person that Falk considers a “scholar” and that Kornell thinks “raises important questions.” What do Sam Alterman and Sam Crane think?

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Eagle Critiques Falk

From the Berkshire Eagle:

Our Opinion: Wrong call by Williams in cancelling speaker

At a time when too many college student bodies are demanding that controversial speakers be banned it is disappointing that Williams College won’t get to hear such a speaker who was invited by students.

1) Any forecasts on what other media outlets will editorialize about Falk’s decision? I am most curious about the Record, which deeply embarrassed itself last fall in the Venker controversy but is now under new leadership.

2) Key in this whole discussion is that Derbsyhire was invited by members of the Williams community. He wasn’t just wondering in off the street. I don’t think it should matter whether the invitation came from students or faculty or staff.

Williams President Adam Falk has ordered the cancellation of an appearance Monday by former National Review columnist John Derbyshire, who some have condemned as being racist. He had been invited by a student group called Uncomfortable Learning.

In framing the debate, how one describes Derbyshire is key. I think that the above is a fair description. It is both true (lots of people, including Adam Falk!, do condemn Derbyshire for being racist) and it highlights the reasons behind the controversy. This is much more neutral than describing Derbyshire as a “white supremist,” since he would disagree with that terminology, or as a “race realist,” which is too confusing for Eagle readers.

Students, faculty and administrators at colleges and universities nationwide have taken to banning or disinviting speakers whose views some find discomfiting. Teachers introducing similar views or failing to provide “trigger warnings” about controversial subjects are demeaned, harassed and threatened with suspensions or firings. The offending speakers and viewpoints are almost invariably conservative or far-right

Mostly correct, although a bit overwrought. But is there a single example — either at an elite college or anywhere else — of a president “banning” a speaker, of forbidding Person X from stepping foot on campus even though they have an invitation from current students or faculty? I can’t find one but pointers are welcome!

This is counter to the mission of higher education, which is to expose students to a variety of disagreeable viewpoints, not to protect their delicate sensibilities from them. Mr. Derbyshire denies he is a white supremacist (Eagle, February 19), and while The Eagle disagrees with the sentiments expressed in a National Review column advising white children about how to be safe among African-Americans, he is entitled to them and Williams students should be able to hear and debunk them.

Fifty years ago, Robert Gaudino considered it one of his missions to “expose students to a variety of disagreeable viewpoints.” Does any faculty member at Williams agree? I am honestly curious.

A Williams grad told The Eagle that “White supremacy has no place in the Purple Valley,” but all manner of racist views exist in the wide world outside of that protected enclave. There is no hiding from them and it is best to be exposed to them in school. That is part of the educational process, one that has been denied to Williams students.

Indeed.

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Advice for Falk

pinker

What advice do our readers have for Adam Falk?

First, admit that you have a (big!) problem. This controversy shows no signs of going away. If anything, it is on the verge of snowballing out of control. When well-respected Harvard professors like Steven Pinker are openly mocking you, it is time to do something.

Second, the best approach would be what I suggested yesterday. Issue the following statement:

I have talked to many Williams faculty, students and alumni. I have now read John Derbsyhire’s book We Are Doomed, having checked it out from our own Sawyer Library. Although I profoundly disagree with Derbyshire’s views on a variety of topics, I now realize that my earlier decision was a mistake. Williams College is precisely the place where these odious opinions need to be explored, confronted and debunked. If not us, then who? If not here, then where? So, in the spirit of uncomfortable learning, I have personally invited John Derbyshire to Williams, where we will stage a debate between him and some of the members of our faculty.

And so on. The exact details are unimportant. But banning student-invited speakers is a horrible idea. Admit your error and move on.

Third, the second best approach is to shut up! Stop giving interviews. Stop talking to people. If anyone has questions, refer them to your statement. There is no upside (for you) in continuing the conversation. Your quotes in the Washington Post are a disaster. Consider:

“The understanding I came to of his writing was that it was simply racist ranting, with no redeeming intellectual value whatsoever,”

Then why does Williams have three of his books in its library? Are your staff idiots? Do Williams librarians purchase many books that are simply “racist ranting?” Providing quotes like this only makes you look incompetent. Moreover, John Derbyshire regular writes for The New Criterion, as hoity-toity an egghead magazine as you are going to find. Do you really believe that The New Criterion publishes a lot of material with “no redeeming intellectual value?” Are they a bunch of racists too? That is nuts, and readers of the Washington Post are smart enough to know it.

“The college does not have an obligation to give a platform to absolutely anybody. And a self-proclaimed white supremacist who was going to come and tell students … that they should avoid the African American students, was over a line.”

Note how the Post leaves out a part of your comment? Reporters are not your friends. They have a beast to feed and you are the meat. The more you say to them, the more you leave yourself open to quote-mangling, malicious or otherwise.

And you leave yourself open to rebuttal on the facts. John Derbyshire is many, many things but he is not “a self-proclaimed white supremacist.” You have just opened yourself (and Williams!) up to claim of defamation! Listen to your lawyers and shut up. (Attorney readers are welcome to offer their opinions as to whether or Derbyshire would have a case.)

And you aren’t even accurately summarizing Derbyshire’s infamous article correctly. He writes:

In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks. (I’ll use IWSB as an ad hoc abbreviation.) You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.

Derbyshire’s (rude) advice to non-black Williams students is exactly the opposite of what you have claimed it to be. He recommends that they go out of their way to make friends with black Williams students. He reasoning may be false and obnoxious and racist — and you are allowed to call it all those things and more — but you aren’t allowed to say that Derbyshire gives Advice X when, in fact, he gives Advice Y.

Fourth (and this is by far the worst option but still better than the path you are going down) is to make someone else at Williams the face of this issue. That is why senior administrators like Will Dudley, Denise Buell and Sarah Bolton get paid the big bucks. Let one of them — or perhaps a senior professor looking for a fight — spout off to the Washington Post. You are the president of Williams College. You should step back from the fray. You already made the decision. Let other faculty members talk about it.

What advice do our readers have for Falk?

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FIRE Slams Falk

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has slammed Williams/Falk for cancelling the UL/Derbyshire talk. Best part:

There is no reconciling Falk’s October position with his current one, leaving students with unclear guidelines as to which speakers or subjects are out-of-bounds at Williams College. In fact, the only thing that is clear now is that President Falk has declared his administration to be the sole arbiter of what can and cannot be said at the college, the college’s supposed commitment to free speech notwithstanding.

Although Williams is, as a private institution, free to craft its own rules, it has stated that it is “committed to being a community in which all ranges of opinion and belief can be expressed and debated” and that “controversy is at the heart of … free academic inquiry.” Imposing restrictions on what topics may be discussed and who students may invite to discuss them is the polar opposite of “free academic inquiry”; it is closer to indoctrination than education.

Indeed. What would Robert Gaudino say? FIRE continues:

It’s worth noting that some of the most controversial speakers invited to speak at colleges and universities over the past century have sparked the adoption of policies that protect robust and open debate on campuses. The prime example is Yale’s 1975 Woodward Report, which is regarded as the first free speech policy statement by a university to espouse a deep commitment to examining all viewpoints, no matter their popularity, as a path toward truth. That report was adopted only after students called for the disinvitation of controversial Nobel laureate William Shockley, whose views many contended were not only patently racist, but incontrovertibly false. The Woodward Report has been cited as an inspiration for the University of Chicago’s free speech policy statement, which FIRE has endorsed, and which schools are increasingly adopting.

For the moment, it appears Williams has chosen a different path—a path on which paternalistic administrators decide which ideas are too dangerous for college students to hear, even when students themselves have established a program specifically for the purpose of engaging with such ideas. It is now up to the students, faculty, alumni, and trustees of Williams to decide whether that is truly the kind of place they want their college to be, or whether they are going to push back against this act of censorship.

Are we going to push back?

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Falk Cancels Speech

I enjoyed Adam Falks op-ed in the Record last fall, especially this part:

The senior class may remember that in my Convocation remarks to them this fall, I gave them an assignment to seek out someone whose opinions and beliefs are different than their own, and to engage in a conversation to really listen and learn from one another.

Excellent advice! Alas, it looks like Adam Falk no longer agrees.

To the Williams Community,

Today I am taking the extraordinary step of canceling a speech by John Derbyshire, who was to have presented his views here on Monday night. The college didn’t invite Derbyshire, but I have made it clear to the students who did that the college will not provide a platform for him.

Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard. The college has a very long history of encouraging the expression of a range of viewpoints and giving voice to widely differing opinions. We have said we wouldn’t cancel speakers or prevent the expression of views except in the most extreme circumstances. In other words: There’s a line somewhere, but in our history of hosting events and speeches of all kinds, we hadn’t yet found it.

We’ve found the line. Derbyshire, in my opinion, is on the other side of it. Many of his expressions clearly constitute hate speech, and we will not promote such speech on this campus or in our community.

We respect—and expect—our students’ exploration of ideas, including ones that are very challenging, and we encourage individual choice and decision-making by students. But at times it’s our role as educators and administrators to step in and make decisions that are in the best interest of students and our community. This is one of those times.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

Good stuff! But surely there is more that Falk should do. For example, if Derbyshire can’t speak at Williams, then we can hardly allow his books to stay in the library.

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Hate speech is hate speech, whether it is spoken or written.

With luck, Falk will correct this oversight immediately. EphBlog recommends a nice book burning ceremony this afternoon, right on the steps of Chapin.

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MinCo Replies to Falk III

The Minority Coaltion has responded to President Falk’s e-mail about The Merrill Committee that is charged with examining problematic decorations/monuments/images at Williams. Let’s spend three days mocking this madness. Today is Day 3.

President Falk responded in the Record. Worst part:

How can we be the inclusive, welcoming place we want to be – and increasingly are – if the images and stories that surround our students, faculty and staff are largely from a time when so many of them wouldn’t have been welcome here?

I dislike the trope of “Williams was an evil nasty place until me and my friends showed up.” Is that really true? My importantly, will Ephs 50 years from now judge the Williams of 2015 as more welcoming than the Williams of 1985 or 1955 or 1925? I have my doubts. Read “Black Williams: A Written History.” Some students (and faculty?) feel disaffected from Williams today. The same has always been true. The same will always be true.

Most interesting part:

Here’s what I imagine to be a logical set of outcomes: The committee may determine that some historical representations on campus ought to be left as they are, that some ought to be removed or altered or that some ought to be added to, perhaps with historical context or commentary.

Where can we find a list of “historical representations” that the Merrill Committee is likely to consider? In all honesty, other than the painting at The Log, I have trouble coming up with anything even remotely controversial. Ideas from our readers?

Best part:

At Williams, committees are often the places where ideas are born and where decisions are made. It was the alumni-and-student Angevine Committee appointed by President Jack Sawyer that spent a year considering fraternities and in 1962 came to the conclusion that they needed to go. And it was the Committee on Coordinate Education that recommended enrolling women, a recommendation adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1969.

Exactly right, and exactly what EphBlog told you yesterday. EphBlog and Adam Falk, in agreement once again! However:

1) The Committee on Coordinate Education is a lousy example because it was never going to decide anything other than to admit women. Every elite school did the same. Any elite school that didn’t would have become unpopular.

2) The Angevine Committee is a great example (read the details on Wikipedia) because eliminating fraternities was a radical choice that most peer schools refused to do. That was real change.

3) Another good recent example is the MacDonald Report which led to a significant decline in the admissions preferences given to athletes.

4) Anchor Housing (the Dudley Committee?) is an example of major change coming out of the committee system. Alas, it was a total failure, as EphBlog predicted.

Big picture: Falk is correct to claim that change comes via committee. MinCo is foolish to pass on this opportunity to put its fellow travelers in positions of (some) power. Getting a seat at the table is the first step in social change at Williams.

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Log Painting

From Adam Falk:

To the Williams Community,

Built over a period of more than two centuries, the Williams campus is a collection of structures old and new. We are fortunate to have been bequeathed such a remarkably diverse set of facilities, and in our commitment to sustainability we renovate and reuse old buildings as often as we reasonably can.

The students are diverse . . . the faculty is diverse . . . even the buildings are diverse! Diversity is every modern college’s godhead. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

But it is also true that as many campus buildings were constructed in eras quite different from our own, at times they were decorated in ways that seem problematic in a modern context. The same is true of some of the monuments that are found on our campus. How do such forms of decoration, conceived in an earlier time, affect our capacity to be a fully inclusive community in this century? And what should be done about historical images that portray Williams as less welcoming than we are or aspire to be?

Why raise this topic now? Why send out this e-mail? Perplexing. I have seen zero discussion on campus about “problematic” monuments. Has anyone else?

The most famous example that I can think of is/was the swastika on the side of Weston.

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Previous discussion here and here. I had heard that this had been sandblasted away last year. True? Who made that decisions and why did they make it?

Back to Falk:

I would like our community to consider these questions—which go beyond any one object—in a thoughtful and comprehensive way. With that purpose in mind, I’m assembling a special committee of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to bring forward recommendations of a nature both general (what principles should guide us?) and specific (what should we do about a particular piece that’s of concern?).

EphBlog is here to help! What is a list of problematic objects/monuments/images that the committee should consider? Needless to say, a lot of the books in the library will need to go . . .

My thanks go to Karen Merrill, chair of the history department and former dean of the college, who will lead the committee. Additional members will include:

Joe Cruz ’91, professor of philosophy
Katarzyna Pieprzak, professor and chair of Romance languages
David L. Smith, professor of English
Keli Gail, secretary of the college
Ferentz Lafargue, director of the Davis Center
Kevin Murphy, curator of American art, WCMA
Rick Spalding, chaplain to the college
Leila Jere ’91, president of the Society of Alumni

Smart presidents know the answer that they want ahead of time and select the committee accordingly. What answer does Falk want?

The committee will also include three students, whom I will name in consultation with College Council and the Minority Coalition. The committee will begin its work in the new calendar year, at which time it will outline the process for engaging the wider community about these questions.

This was a stupid decision when Falk made it, as later events proved clear. (Discussion coming tomorrow.) Why privilege the Minority Coalition? They don’t have a reputation for sober discussion and reasonable decision-making. Much better is to, ahead of time, pick students for the committee. Needless to say, the three would be racial diverse, with at least one African American member. But Falk hardly needs Min Co to accomplish that. Any member of the committee would be happy to suggest a dozen names, all of whom would be honored to be asked.

Finally, I should note that one item is of particular concern, a mural in the Black Room of the recently renovated Log depicting Mohawk Chief Hendrick, Ephraim Williams, and others before a battle. Because the mural portrays the Mohawks in a way that is potentially problematic, I have instructed that it be temporarily covered while the committee considers the larger questions with which it is charged. I expect that in the course of its work the committee will issue a recommendation regarding this particular mural. Covering it now is not intended to be a prejudgment—of any kind—of the committee’s eventual recommendation, which we anticipate in due course.

Is this the painting that Falk is talking about?

log

If so, what is the problem? And, if this painting can’t be hung at The Log, then there must be a score of paintings at The Clark that will have to go . . .

I’m grateful to the committee members for undertaking this important task. We begin this work out of genuine care and concern both for the Williams we inherited and the Williams we continue to create together.

Sincerely,
Adam Falk
President

If I were Falk, I would focus the College’s energy elsewhere.

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Caring for Community

An all-campus e-mail from President Falk:

To the Williams Community,

The solidarity our students and other community members showed yesterday for their peers on other campuses was an inspiring demonstration of support. It was also an important reminder of all the work still to be done—here and everywhere—to create a society that’s free of discrimination, in which all members are valued and have equal opportunities to thrive.

As we continue that critical work at Williams, done in ways public and private, large and small, students working with each other and together with faculty, staff, alumni, and parents, we acknowledge that we’re a long way from the goal, but our pursuit of it guides our determined steps every single day.

The events at Missouri, Yale, and other places are experienced here in a variety of ways. If you need support—now or at any time—please remember that you can find it in many places on campus, including the dean’s office, chaplains’ office, health center, Davis Center, and Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity.

Finally, a request: We’re heading into a celebratory Homecoming weekend, welcoming lots of alumni and visitors to campus. Looking ahead, I ask you to please keep in mind the important work we’re all doing to make this the community to which we aspire, and, in so doing, to take care of each other and of Williams.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

Comments:

1) I believe that Falk is referencing the black out rally in Paresky from Thursday.

2) Should we be surprised that there is less campus turmoil at Williams than elsewhere? No. Williams has always been among the most “conservative” of the elite liberal arts colleges. Not “conservative” in the sense of voting Republican, of course, just much less likely to devolve into far left (in the context of US political views nationwide) controversy and rebellion. I prefer “classy” to “conservative,” in describing the difference between Williams and, say, Swarthmore, but maybe “reserved” or “restrained” or “traditional” would be more neutral.

3) Most of the letter is harmless. Was Falk wise to send it? I don’t know. Was there a demand on campus that he address recent events? If so, I am not sure if this letter would do much to appease the protesters. Might it anger them? With luck, Falk got good advice from someone.

4) The “request” in the last paragraph is weird. He makes no request except a vague plea to “keep in mind” happy thoughts. Is that all he really wants? Or is this code for: “Don’t protest at the gatherings of rich alumni during the Capital Campaign.”

5) Grammar mavens are invited to parse that last sentence. Is “take care of each other” one of Falk’s requests or not?

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College Scorecard

The College Scorecard is the most important thing to happen in the world of higher education data in several decades. From The New York Times:

President Obama on Saturday abandoned his two-year effort to have the government create a system that explicitly rates the quality of the nation’s colleges and universities, a plan that was bitterly opposed by presidents at many of those institutions.

Under the original idea, announced by Mr. Obama with fanfare in 2013, all of the nation’s 7,000 institutions of higher education would have been assigned a ranking by the government, with the aim of publicly shaming low-rated schools that saddle students with high debt and poor earning potential.

Instead, the White House on Saturday unveiled a website that does not attempt to rate schools with any kind of grade, but provides information to prospective students and their parents about annual costs, graduation rates and salaries after graduation.

There is no reason why the Federal Government needs to rate universities. Why would anyone think that the Feds would be particularly good at such an exercise? But only the Feds could have made the student loan and income data so readily available. With that info public, we can watch a thousand ratings systems bloom.

Perhaps some of our data jocks could tell us how Williams stacks up . . .

And, as usual, President Falk agrees with EphBlog!

Officials at many schools said the government had no business competing with college rating services like those offered by U.S. News and World Report. Many chose blunt language to describe what they said was a misguided effort by Mr. Obama and his administration.

Charles L. Flynn Jr., the president of the College of Mount St. Vincent in the Bronx, called the president’s idea “uncharacteristically clueless.” Adam F. Falk, the president of Williams College in Massachusetts, predicted that it would be “oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads.” And Kenneth W. Starr, who is the president of Baylor University in Waco, Tex., and who, as a prosecutor, led the investigations of President Bill Clinton, called it “quite wrongheaded.”

The Eph Brigade of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is pleased to see Falk in agreement with Ken Starr . . .

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Can-Do Charm

Lovely remembrance of Jimmy Lee ’75 in Vanity Fair.

Remembering the Can-Do Charm (and Fierce Temper) of Wall St. Legend Jimmy Lee

Everybody on Wall Street has a Jimmy Lee story, mainly because he was the kind of banker who really doesn’t exist anymore. The JPMorgan Chase & Co. vice chairman, who died unexpectedly this morning of a heart attack at age 62, was the kind of investment banker who told you immediately what he could do for you, not what he could not do for you, and then, through his considerable will, forced his firm to make good on his myriad of promises.

He never seemed to get bogged down in the mechanics of deal-making, nor did he seem much concerned with the infernal political infighting that is part and parcel of every big Wall Street firm (even though he had nearly flawless political skills). Rather, he maintained a consistent air of euphoria about the prospect of doing deals. Not for nothing did Jimmy—always Jimmy, not the more formal James B. Lee Jr.—wear his signature suspenders with silver dollars depicted all over them. With his slicked-backed hair and Hermès ties, he looked every bit the part of an unabashed gung-ho, can-do investment banker. He had not the slightest bit of conflict about what he was meant to do, even in the years following the financial crisis when Wall Street bankers were increasingly depicted as unsavory types. That kind of soul-searching was not for Jimmy.

Rest of article is below the break. Read the whole thing. There is even an Adam Falk sighting!

Indeed, the last time I saw Jimmy was on April 9, the night before General Electric announced that it was getting out of most of its finance businesses. My wife and I were invited to a dinner with the president of Williams College, which our two sons attend, as did Jimmy and his three children. Jimmy loved Williams. He had recently joined its board—something he had long aspired to—and the dinner was one of the ways he ginned up financial support for the college. The dinner was a small, intimate affair—eight people or so—and it was held in JPMorgan Chase C.E.O. Jamie Dimon’s private dining room on the 42nd floor of the company’s headquarters at 270 Park Avenue. Jimmy was his usual charming self, extolling the virtues of Williams College and facilitating a dynamic discussion at the table about the virtues of a liberal-arts education.

Cohan’s sons are apparently Teddy ’16 and Quentin ’17. Regular readers will recall that Quentin wrote the best Eph April Fools article in several years and that Teddy was involved in the College Council election scandal this spring.

Rest of article below the break.

Read more

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Williams Goes to HBS

Three years ago, Adam Falk assured us that all those fancy MOOCs (massive open on-line courses) had no future at Williams.

Technology has and will continue to improve how we teach. But what it cannot do is remove human beings from the equation. Coursera, one of the new purveyors of massive, open online courses, proposes to crowd-source the grading of essays, as if averaging letter grades assigned by five random peers were the educational equivalent of a highly trained professor providing thoughtful evaluation and detailed response. To pretend that this is so is to deny the most significant purposes of education, and to forfeit its true value.

But what about this news?

HBX, Harvard Business School’s online digital education initiative, has announced that it has entered into agreements to work with several U.S. liberal arts colleges to provide additional benefits for their students taking the Credential of Readiness (CORe) program.

CORe is an online program, consisting of approximately 150 hours of learning, for students and early career professionals to learn the fundamentals of business on a highly engaging and interactive platform designed by Harvard Business School faculty, according to Harvard Business School.

One of the schools listed in Williams. Anyone have any further details? Comments:

1) You can be sure that any grading here will not be done by Harvard professors. It will be a mix of computer and peer-graded work. Does Falk object?

2) I am probably being unfair to Falk because I suspect that this program is merely an additional option for Williams students, not a replacement for their current coursework. That is, any William student who participates in CORe will still need to take 32 Williams classes for credit.

3) If you don’t think that MOOCs are the future of education, you aren’t paying attention.

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ACSR Report on Fossil Fuels

All-campus e-mail from President Falk:

To the Williams Community,

Given the broad interest in the work that the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility has been doing to analyze the proposal that the college divest from 200 companies involved with fossil fuel extraction, I thought I’d let you know that the committee’s report on the matter is now complete and available online.

The report articulates those areas on which the committee reached consensus and those on which after careful deliberation there was not agreement.

The Board of Trustees began discussing the report at its meeting last weekend. The trustees’ deliberations, which will continue over the coming months, rest on the premises, which I share, that the climate is changing, that the causes of that change are almost assuredly human, and that Williams must develop a strong and broad-based response.

For now our thanks go to ACSR Chair Anand Swamy and the whole committee for their thoughtful work on this important issue—work that has modeled how people with differing viewpoints of how to achieve a shared goal can engage with each other in ways that are both vigorous and respectful.

First, kudos to the ACSR/Falk for making the report public. Williams needs more transparency. (But, since Williams has a history of making reports public and then disappearing them, I saved copies of the report and the appendix.)

Second, I am unimpressed with the report because it fails to provide the best arguments against divestment, even in the section labeled “The Case Against Divestment.” This is, frankly, pathetic. It is perfectly reasonable to conclude, as Stanford has done, that a college should divest. You or I may disagree, but that is OK. It is not reasonable to claim (believe?) that you are, for purposes of discussion, providing the best arguments against divestment when, in fact, you are not, either because of a desire to win the argument or a failure to even know what those best arguments are. (I am not sure which explanation reflects more badly on the ASCR.)

Third, there is much material in the report worthy of discussion. Who wants to see a 10 day EphBlog critique/discussion?

Fourth, as always, the underlying politics are interesting. I suspect that there are powerful forces at the College who do not want divestment and have pushed hard against it. Why else would the Investment Office go to the trouble of writing an op-ed in the Record? (By the way, this op-ed is filled with lies-by-omission. With luck, it will only take 5 days to unpack them.) Comments by insiders on the internal politics of divestment are welcome.

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