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Cents and Sensibility

From Williams president Morty Schapiro has a new book (with co-author Gary Saul Morson): Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities. Here (pdf) is the first chapter. I love the opening paragraph of the Acknowledgements:


Gordon Winston (RIP) was Morty’s Williams colleague for many years.

Should we spend a week going through the first chapter?


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.


Black Out

There was an event at 4:00 PM in Paresky today.mizzou

Picture via Dean Reyes’ instagram feed. Comments:

1) Judging from comments on Yik Yak, I think that this event was designed to demonstrate solidarity with students at the University of Missouri. (Black and gold are its official colors.) Was this also in support of protesters at Yale? I don’t think so.

2) Were there any speeches at the event? If so, tell us about them! If there are any transcripts, many alumni/parents would be interested in reading them.

3) I think phrases like “black out” and “black on campus” were also associated with the entire day.

4) Did Adam Falk attend? Was he wearing all black today? He should have been, even (especially!) if he thinks these students are overwrought and/or misguided. Better to be obviously on their side than to be a focus of their anger.

Longtime Williams watchers will recall the Stand With Us protests of 7 years ago. Short version: Racial graffiti in Williams E followed by much campus upheaval. Organizers decide to have a protest march and rally. Some discussion about demands and/or ending at the Presidents House. But Morty Schapiro, sly devil that he was and is, joined the protest march. Genius! How could the protesters get angry with him and/or make demands when he was obviously on their side? Future Williams presidents should learn from Morty’s insights into student psychology.

UPDATE: According to In the ‘Cac, the event was designed to support African American students at the University of Missouri.


Internet Speed in 2001

An 2001 article from the Wall Street Journal. How well has it held up? Note that, despite listing a half dozen issues that engage college students, they fail to mention climate change.

What omission will seem similarly surprising a decade from now?

When Protests Proceed at Internet Speed


In the 1980’s, U.S. higher-education institutions struggled over whether they should divest the stocks they owned in companies that did business in South Africa because that country engaged in apartheid. Colleges, including Macalester and Williams, where we serve as presidents, formed committees of faculty members, students, and others to deliberate and discuss what constituted socially responsible investments. Boards of trustees adopted statements of principle guiding their investment policies.

It’s difficult to determine how much influence the divestiture movement had on political reform in South Africa. But many corporations unquestionably felt the heat that colleges’ stock-divestment policies generated, and the white South African government worried mightily about the impact apartheid would have on that country’s economic future. Most observers have characterized the divestment moment as a remarkable example of effective collective action by higher-education institutions.

Although groups dedicated to the principle of social responsibility have remained active — often through churches and state pension funds — issues like apartheid, which affect people far beyond the boundaries of a campus, have faded from the radar screens of most colleges. Until now. The time may well have come to reawaken, or re-create, those committees and to dust off those policy statements. The second coming of social responsibility is upon us.

This time, however, social activists have different types of concerns and, more important, employ different methods of communication and consensus building. That means that college leaders must develop different ways to respond to those concerns.

Investments in tobacco, nuclear-energy, genetic-engineering, and other companies remain potential targets for student protests and shareholder action. Today, however, students are also questioning another significant aspect of higher education: how colleges raise and spend their cash. The issues include fair pay for campus workers and purchasing from environmentally aware companies.

But at the top of the list these days is the “sweatshop” issue: the role that colleges play in the marketing of clothing bearing their name or image. Because colleges license apparel with their logo on it, and that apparel can be made in overseas factories with abusive labor practices, higher-education institutions have become a focal point in the struggle to improve conditions for foreign textile workers. Student activists, worried about corporate control of the global economy, and spurred by labor leaders with their own complicated agenda regarding the relationship of workers and management, have employed a mixture of opinion mobilization and 1960’s-style protests and sit-ins to provoke responses from institutional leaders.
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Morty on Campus Unrest – a follow-up (Part VI?)

A story today in the Chronicle of Higher Education dovetails with David’s excellent, five-part dissection of Morty Schapiro’s Wall Street Journal op-ed on campus speech and protests (starting here).

Laura Kipnis, a Northwestern professor of media, wrote a February article for the Chronicle entitled “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe,” in which she discussed Northwestern’s newly-instituted prohibition on student-faculty dating in the context of a lawsuit between an undergraduate and a philosophy professor over a failed date:

An undergraduate sued my own university, alleging that a philosophy professor had engaged in “unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances” and that the university punished him insufficiently for it. The details that emerged in news reports and legal papers were murky and contested, and the suit was eventually thrown out of court…

The aftermath has been a score of back-and-forth lawsuits. After trying to get a financial settlement from the professor, the student filed a Title IX suit against the university: She wants her tuition reimbursed, compensation for emotional distress, and other damages. Because the professor wasn’t terminated, when she runs into him it triggers her PTSD, she says. (The university claims that it appropriately sanctioned the professor, denying him a raise and a named chair.) She’s also suing the professor for gender violence. He sued the university for gender discrimination (he says he wasn’t allowed to present evidence disproving the student’s allegations)—this suit was thrown out; so was the student’s lawsuit against the university. The professor sued for defamation various colleagues, administrators, and a former grad student whom, according to his complaint, he had previously dated; a judge dismissed those suits this month…
What a mess. And what a slippery slope…

In her new article, she writes about how that original article led to: 1) a march on Morty’s office by mattress-carrying students:

When I first heard that students at my university had staged a protest over an essay I’d written in The Chronicle Review about sexual politics on campus — and that they were carrying mattresses and pillows — I was a bit nonplussed. For one thing, mattresses had become a symbol of student-on-student sexual-assault allegations, and I’d been writing about the new consensual-relations codes governing professor-student dating. Also, I’d been writing as a feminist. And I hadn’t sexually assaulted anyone. The whole thing seemed symbolically incoherent.

2) Title IX complaints against Kipnis by two students;

Things seemed less amusing when I received an email from my university’s Title IX coordinator informing me that two students had filed Title IX complaints against me on the basis of the essay and “subsequent public statements” (which turned out to be a tweet) … I was being charged with retaliation, it said, though it failed to explain how an essay that mentioned no one by name could be construed as retaliatory, or how a publication fell under the province of Title IX, which, as I understood it, dealt with sexual misconduct and gender discrimination.

3) an investigation by an outside law firm of undisclosed charges against her;

I wouldn’t be informed about the substance of the complaints until I met with the investigators. Apparently the idea was that they’d tell me the charges, and then, while I was collecting my wits, interrogate me about them…

A week later I heard from the investigators. For reasons I wasn’t privy to, the university had hired an outside law firm, based in another Midwestern city an hour-and-a-half flight away, to conduct the investigation; a team of two lawyers had been appointed, and they wanted to schedule “an initial interview” the following week…

I replied that I wanted to know the charges before agreeing to a meeting. They told me, cordially, that they wanted to set up a meeting during which they would inform me of the charges and pose questions.

4) a Huffington Post article criticizing both Kipnis and Morty’s op-ed:

I’d been asked to keep the charges confidential, but this became moot when, shortly before my campus meeting with the investigators, a graduate student published an article on a well-trafficked site excoriating me and the essay, and announcing that two students had filed Title IX retaliation complaints against me. She didn’t identify her source for this information or specify her own relationship to the situation, though she seemed well versed on all the inside details; in fact, she knew more about the process than I did.

It wasn’t me alone on the chopping block. She also excoriated our university’s president for his op-ed essay on academic freedom, which, she charged, was really a veiled commentary on the pending Title IX charges against me and thus subverted the process by issuing a covert advance verdict in my favor. (He’d obliquely mentioned the controversy over the essay, among other campus free-speech issues.) She didn’t seem particularly concerned that she herself was subverting the process by charging that the process had been subverted, and by revealing the complaints in the first place.

Here’s her conclusion:

What’s being lost, along with job security, is the liberty to publish ideas that might go against the grain or to take on risky subjects in the first place… Self-censorship naturally prevails [and] even those with tenure fear getting caught up in some horrendous disciplinary process with ad hoc rules and outcomes; pretty much everyone now self-censors accordingly.

You can mock academic culture all you want, and I’ve done a fair amount of it myself, but I also believe that unconstrained intellectual debate — once the ideal of university life, now on life support — is essential to a functioning democratic society. And that should concern us all. I also find it beyond depressing to witness young women on campuses — including aspiring intellectuals! — trying to induce university powers to shield them from the umbrages of life and calling it feminism.

As of this writing, I have yet to hear the verdict on my case, though it’s well past the 60-day time frame. In the meantime, new Title IX complaints have been filed against the faculty-support person who accompanied me to the session with the investigators. As a member of the Faculty Senate, whose bylaws include the protection of academic freedom — and believing the process he’d witnessed was a clear violation of academic freedom — he’d spoken in general terms about the situation at a senate meeting. Shortly thereafter, as the attorneys investigating my case informed me by phone, retaliation complaints were filed against him for speaking publicly about the matter (even though the complaints against me had already been revealed in the graduate student’s article), and he could no longer act as my support person. Another team of lawyers from the same firm has been appointed to conduct a new investigation.

A week or so earlier, the investigators had phoned to let me know that a “mediated resolution” was possible in my case if I wished to pursue that option. I asked what that meant — an image of me and the complainants in a conference room hugging came to mind. I didn’t like the visual. The students were willing to drop their complaints in exchange for a public apology from me, the investigators said. I tried to stifle a laugh. I asked if that was all. No, they also wanted me to agree not to write about the case.

I understand that by writing these sentences, I’m risking more retaliation complaints, though I’m unclear what penalties may be in store (I suspect it’s buried somewhere in those links). But I refuse to believe that students get to dictate what professors can or can’t write about, or what we’re allowed to discuss at our Faculty Senate meetings. I don’t believe discussing Title IX cases should be verboten in the first place — the secrecy of the process invites McCarthyist abuses and overreach.

Implicit in Kipnis’s criticism of Northwestern’s policies, its handling of the complaint against her, and subsequent developments is a critique similar to that presented in the EphBlog series. To be sure, Kipnis credits Morty for writing his op-ed, but it’s clear that she does not believe his actions demonstrate a commitment to free speech, nor that the culture fostered at Northwestern (or elsewhere in academia) is a good one.


Morty on Campus Unrest V

Former Williams President Morty Schapiro wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in March on the “The New Face of Campus Unrest.” It is not good. Let’s spend a week dissecting it! Today is Day 5.

The context of an incident matters, and it is near impossible for outsiders to glean the facts during the public battles that ensue after a high-profile event. College community members deserve to be in a safe and supportive environment, and it is our job to nurture that environment.

I made fun of this quote last week because it was so self-serving: No one not living on campus can ever “glean the facts” about a controversy, so all you rich alumni should just Shut Up and Write Big Checks.

But the truly annoying part of this op-ed is Morty’s failure to grasp the easy and obvious solution: Elite universities should not punish speech that is protected by the First Amendment. If something is legal for US citizens to say (or do) on Spring Street, then it should be legal for Williams students to say (or do) on campus. Why is this a good idea?

First, it makes 99% of the “controversies” that Morty is talking about go away. When silly student says X and other students complain, a college president/dean/professor can just reply “The First Amendment protects all speech, especially the speech you despise.”

Second, it educates the students doing the complaining. Many of them do not seem to really understand “uncomfortable learning,” a concept highlighted by Adam Falk is his induction speech. Speech that upsets you is speech that teaches you as well. At the very least, you learn that there are other (smart! educated!) Ephs with very different viewpoints. And that is a valuable education, good preparation for the rest of your life.

Third, it decreases the amount of complaining. So many students complain about speech they dislike because their complaints work. Morty mentions:

And don’t forget the racist YouTube video that went viral, leading to the expulsion of two students at the University of Oklahoma on March 10.

Morty fails (because he does not know?!) that this expulsion was almost certainly unconstitutional, that Oklahoma will, at the very least, be forced to readmit these students and, in all likelihood, pay them a substantial amount of money.

Summary: If colleges were to make their codes of student conduct identical to a First Amendment test, this entire issue — and the endless time it wastes — would go away.

Why won’t they do that? Why doesn’t Morty even discuss such an obvious and sensible idea?


Morty on Campus Unrest IV

Former Williams President Morty Schapiro wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in March on the “The New Face of Campus Unrest.” It is not good. Let’s spend a week dissecting it! Today is Day 4.

A decade or so ago, I returned from Shabbat services at my synagogue to learn that a student had hung posters mocking the Holocaust Remembrance Day posters distributed in the dorms. The message had been turned into a celebration of Hitler’s birthday; the picture of concentration camp victims had for some reason been replaced by a marijuana leaf. It is hard to imagine a more disgusting display.

Longtime readers will know that Morty is referring to Mary Jane Hitler, a controversy we covered in detail. Is Morty’s summary a fair one?


First, note that he elides the manner of distribution of the posters. The originally posters (example above) were “distributed in the dorms” — as if they had been left in a common room — while the Hitler posters were “hung.” In fact, both posters were distributed in an identical manner: hung on the doors of student rooms. Below is one of the parody posters.


Second, “the picture of concentration camp victims had for some reason been replaced by a marijuana leaf” is wrong. The marijuana leaf replaced the Star of David symbol on the original posters. This is, perhaps, a small point and I am certain that Morty is not trying to be misleading. (Why would he?) But it does remind us all testimony is inherently unreliable, especially years after the fact.

Third, “celebration of Hitler’s birthday” is a misleading description of the intention behind the posters. Recall the Administration’s own description:

The student who admitted that she had produced and hung the second posters said that her doing so was intended as a use of her right to provoke discussion about the appropriateness of the first ones.

Indeed. These posters were clearly parodies of the original Holocaust Remembrance posters. They were, intentionally, nonsensical.

Fourth, note the Morty’s provincialism in the claim that “It is hard to imagine a more disgusting display.” Hard for whom? I can easily imagine many more worse displays! In fact, doesn’t Morty have some Northwestern colleagues who are, say, African American rather than Jewish? I suspect that they would find praise of the KKK or the Confederacy much more disgusting than these Hitler/marijuana posters.

Fifth, I am unimpressed with Morty’s empathy. Why turn this student into the other? She made a mistake. Wasn’t it Morty’s (and Williams’s) job to, you know, teach her? To help turn her into a better person? But why even try when it is so much easier (and profitable!) to turn her into the enemy.

And, eight years later, she is a wife and mother, moving on with her life as so many before her have done, as so many graduates in 2016 will soon do.

I am leaving names out of this discussion, but surely our faithful readers will appreciate that the student is marrying someone connected to this saga but, not, fortunately, the original creepy boyfriend.

Back to Morty:

But here is the question we asked: Did the student hang those posters randomly, or instead single out the rooms of members of groups targeted by the Nazis such as Jews, blacks and gays?

“blacks?” Come on Morty! Although the Nazis were, obviously, no friends to blacks, any accurate accounting would put blacks far down on the list of Nazi victims. If you believe Wikipedia, any fair three word summary of Nazi victims would definitely not include blacks and might not include gays. But Poles and Ukrainians — much less Catholics, Communists and deaf people — are not major constituencies of a modern, major university president, so Morty does not list them.

If it had been the latter, it might have constituted verbal assault. But it was the former, and in our view that was protected free speech. This wasn’t an easy decision, or perhaps the most expedient, but it was the right one.

Tell us all how brave you are Morty! How, exactly, would it have possibly been “expedient” to punish this student, a student who was clearly exercising free speech in exactly the same manner as the students who put up the original posters? Any attempt to punish the student would — if she fought it — lead to disaster. And this student was a fighter.

Of course, this passage is just a throw-away story — meant to demonstrate the good sense (put him on your corporate board!) and bravery (nothing expedient!) of our fearless author. But I just couldn’t resist taking a guided tour through one of my favorite Williams controversies.

They don’t call me Nazi Hunter for nothing!


Morty on Campus Unrest III

Former Williams President Morty Schapiro wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in March on the “The New Face of Campus Unrest.” It is not good. Let’s spend a week dissecting it! Today is Day 3.

As all the good Deconstructionistas at Williams have taught us, we should pay at least as much attention to the words left out of a text as to the words in them. What is missing from Morty’s op-ed? A clear thesis statement, as we discussed last time.

And that question leads to a second lesson from the Foucaultlians. Don’t read the text for what it says. Ask, instead, “Why was it written?”

Morty, not a man immune to the siren calls of Mammon, is smart enough to be planning his post-college-presidency life. He has been sucking on the generous teat of MMC for more than a decade. Corporate board service is one of the world’s easiest jobs. Consider Morty’s compensation:


$240,000 per year for a handful of board meetings! Nice work if you can get it.

But how do you get more of it? Simple: Write anodyne pieces in the Wall Street Journal which demonstrate that you are a sensible guy, someone who makes CEOs and other corporate honchos comfortable, someone who appreciates power and the people who wield it.

Now, don’t be too cynical, dear reader! I am sure that Morty was just sitting around one Tuesday in February, bored, without too much to do. Obviously, he doesn’t have more students to teach, faculty to meet or rich people to charm. It was either write a thesis-less op-ed for the Wall Street Journal or rewatch his DVD of USC’s Football Greatest Hits . . .

Morty may not have intended this — who among us likes to admit to our baser motives? — but anyone advising him on the best way to maximize his future income would advise him to write Wall Street Journal op-eds that rich guys will agree with.

Best part is MMC’s description of why Morty makes such an outstanding member of its board of directors.

We believe Mr. Schapiro’s qualifications to sit on our Board of Directors and chair our Directors and Governance Committee include his experience in managing large and complex educational institutions, which provides the Board with a diverse approach to management, as well as his 32 years of experience as a professor of economics.

Yeah, right! Morty joined the board of MMC before he became president of Northwestern or of Williams. He was just a random dean at USC, with no background in insurance or any of MMC’s other businesses. (Recall our discussion of the Morty/Marsh controversy a decade ago.) He was asked to join the board because (I am almost certain) someone already on the board had a USC connection.

Morty has kept that job because the people in power like having him around. Writing non-controversial op-eds helps as well.


Morty on Campus Unrest II

Former Williams President Morty Schapiro wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in March on the “The New Face of Campus Unrest.” It is not good. Let’s spend a week dissecting it! Today is Day 2.

The explosion of social media has taken this disruption to a level unforeseen in the digital dark ages of 14 years ago. Dealing with campus community members on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Vine and Yik Yak has become a high-stakes challenge, and who knows what will emerge next? At issue, as it often is on America’s campuses, is the limit to free expression.

What does Morty believe about “the limit to free expression?” Reading this article, it is almost impossible to say. He mostly asks questions:

So where to draw that elusive line?

What’s a president to do?

If all you have are questions, then why are you taking up space in the Wall Street Journal? Let’s leave that suspicious question till next time and do our best to find a thesis statement. How about this?

The context of an incident matters, and it is near impossible for outsiders to glean the facts during the public battles that ensue after a high-profile event.

And that’s it! Morty could take one of several plausible clear stands on this issue. But he doesn’t. His only (extremely self-serving!) claim is that anyone not actually on campus X can not have an informed opinion on any “high-profile event” on that campus. Are you a concerned Northwestern alumnus with views on a campus controversy? Shut up, Morty explains. You can’t “glean the facts” the way that he can, so you should just be quiet and write Northwestern a check.

Note the nihilism in Morty’s position. Have you been to Iraq? No? Then you, obviously, can’t possibly “glean the facts” necessary to have an informed opinion about war. Have you run a private equity firm? No? Then you, obviously, can’t have a clue “during the public battles that ensue after a high-profile event” like a leveraged buyout.

I am sure that this opinion is popular among all Morty’s presidential buddies. Alas, he provides zero evidence in this article demonstrating that it is, you know, true . . .


Morty on Campus Unrest I

Former Williams President Morty Schapiro wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in March on the “The New Face of Campus Unrest.” It is not good. Let’s spend a week dissecting it! Today is Day 1.

In 2001 I co-wrote an op-ed, “When Protests Proceed at Internet Speed,” arguing that the Internet would make it much more difficult to maintain civility on college campuses. Economists have a dismal prediction record, but that one was spot on. Seemingly every day brings a new crisis, a new set of issues that threatens to disrupt the lives of students, professors—and college presidents.

This paragraph illustrates the truth of Mark Taylor’s (in)famous quip about Morty — “Williams needs a wise man, not a wise guy.” Has “civility on college campuses” really decreased over the last few decades? Of course not!

First, consider the public spaces at places like Williams and Northwestern, the dining halls and dorms rooms. Does Morty (or anyone) provide any evidence that these locations are less civil today than they were 25 years ago? No. And that is because they are, if anything, more civil, more polite, more solicitous of the feelings of others, especially less powerful others. You are much less likely to hear casual slurs — e.g., “Don’t be such a fag.” — in public today than you were then. (Of course, the Williams of the 1980s was a very civil place, but Morty’s argument depends on it being more civil today.)

Second, consider the classrooms. Were Williams professors like, say, Robert Waite or Laszlo Versenyi, much more civil than current professors? No. They were certainly different. (Who can imagine a current Williams professor requiring his male students to take off their baseball caps for class, as Waite always did?) But, if anything, they were much more ready to make students uncomfortable in class than any current professor would be. Now, “making students uncomfortable” in class is not the same thing as being “uncivil,” but it is a sign of Morty’s parochialism that his complaints is unmoored from actual lived experience, both outside and inside the classroom.

Third, are students (and others) any more uncivil in their private thoughts and conversations than they were 25 years ago? Again, the answer is No. Students back then had lots of horrible things to say about Williams presidents like Chandler and Oakley, especially about topics like divestment from South Africa or affirmative action.

Given these facts, why would Morty — a smart and keen observer — believe that civility has decreased? Because he and his fellow presidents are no longer the only ones with the megaphone.

The major change between now and then is that, today, students/faculty/staff/alumni with complaints about Williams are better able to make those complaints heard by the broader College community, and the world. Morty’s real complaint is not about a general drop in civility but about the increased power of non-presidents to make their voices heard.

When students in 1985 were agitating for divestment from South Africa, their options were limited. Contact all the alumni? Impossible. Update their supporters who didn’t live in Williamstown? Very difficult.

Students today arguing for divestment from fossil fuel companies have much more power. They can easily reach alumni all over the world. They can coordinate with peers at other schools.

In 1980s, students could make life X difficult for John Chandler. Today, students can make life 10 times X difficult for Morty Schapiro. Students, and others, are not any less civil now than they were then. They are simply more powerful. And Morty doesn’t like it.

Entire op-ed is below the break for those without a WSJ subscription.
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Predicting Matriculation

Here (pdf) is the academic paper which came out of Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 thesis.

This paper provides an econometric analysis of the matriculation decisions made by students accepted to Williams College, one of the nation’s most highly selective colleges and universities. Using data for the Williams classes of 2008 through 2012 to estimate a yield model, we find that—conditional on the student applying to and being accepted by Williams—applicant quality as measured by standardized tests, high school GPA and the like, the net price a particular student faces (the sticker price minus institutional financial aid), the applicant’s race and geographic origin, plus the student’s artistic, athletic and academic interests, are strong predictors of whether or not the student will matriculate.

1) Kudos to Nurnberg for doing some excellent work. All thesis students should aspire to publish their work in an academic journal. Kudos also to Nurnberg’s advisors: Morton Schapiro and David Zimmerman.

2) Brickbacks to Nurnberg (or should it really be to Schapiro and Zimmerman) for not making the full text of Nurnberg’s thesis available on line. (Prior discussion here.)

3) Want your economics and statistics thesis to be equally successful? Then write about Williams. Professor Steven Miller is eager to supervise thesis students (in math/stat) who want to analyze Williams data.

4) Should I spend a week or two going through the details of this paper? Reader requests are always welcome!


Enhanced Learning

Longtime reader AF points out this Wall Street Journal op-ed from former Williams president Morty Schapiro. Lest it disappear, the entire article is below the break.

The entire article deserves a week’s worth of deconstruction. Let’s save that effort until after spring break. In the meantime, note that Morty has changed his personal branding! For many years, his byline was “Morton Owen Schapiro.” A bit pretensions, perhaps, but not ridiculous for a college president. Now, he is just plain, old Morton Schapiro (here and on his Northwestern page). Of course, this is probably just random and/or a function of WSJ policies. Still, if I were advising on his post-presidency career plans, I would recommend a little less pretension in order to increase his opportunities for lucrative service on company boards . . .

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(Don’t) Give Me Your Poor I

First installment in a two week discussion of the recent New York Times article “Generation Later, Poor Are Still Rare at Elite Colleges” by Richard Perez-Pena. Interested readers should check out our collection of posts about socio-economic issues related to admissions, from which I have plagiarized extensively.

Why two weeks? Because my little bother, Stephen Field ’37, thinks this is a topic worth discussing in depth!

As the shaded quadrangles of the nation’s elite campuses stir to life for the start of the academic year, they remain bastions of privilege. Amid promises to admit more poor students, top colleges educate roughly the same percentage of them as they did a generation ago. This is despite the fact that there are many high school seniors from low-income homes with top grades and scores: twice the percentage in the general population as at elite colleges.

First, always begin by asking “What is the New York Times choosing not to write about?” In this context, the answer is: All the other metrics that 18 year-olds (and their families) differ on but which colleges, and the New York Times, don’t care about. For example, I would bet that high school students with parents that served in the military or scored about average on their SATs or currently attend Baptists congregations or are divorced are dramatically less likely than other students to apply to, be accepted by, or attend elite colleges. Does the Cathedral care? No. The Cathedral — elite academia and the prestige press — cares about race and money and gender, and maybe a few other things. Being the son of a divorced Baptist veteran of average intelligence counts for nothing, no matter how few of you there are at Williams.

Second, read the whole article. Note how constricted the range of views are: running from the left to the far left. No one who thinks, as I do — that there is nothing surprising in the under-representation of poor students, that there is little that could plausibly be done about it and that attempts to do anything are just as likely to hurt as to help — is interviewed. Does Perez-Pena know that we are out here? Does he care? Or does he view his job as weaving a cushy cocoon of ignorance for Times readers? You don’t have to agree with, say, Charles Murray or Bryan Caplan, to think that a news article ought to mention that they exist.

Ten to 15 years ago, when some elite colleges got more serious about economic diversity, there was a view that increasing financial aid could turn the dial, but “I think we were a little naïve,” said Morton O. Schapiro, president of Northwestern University, a former president of Williams College and, like Dr. Hill at Vassar, an economist specializing in the economics of higher education.

Cost remains a barrier, but so does perception, he said, adding, “It’s a psychology and sociology thing, as well as a pricing thing.”

Who is the “we” you speak of Morty? I wasn’t naive. Here is what I was writing 8 years ago:

People who see tilts and other injustices in elite admissions have a highly naive view of the possibilities once a student hits 17. These modern day Marxists have a (stupid) a priori belief that the abilities which lead to academic success at Amherst are uniformly distributed across the population. Alas, these abilities — high IQ, a love of learning, disciplined work habits — are very non-uniformly distributed. The children of people in the top half of the income distribution are much more likely to have these abilities than the children of people in the bottom half. This effect is magnified in the top and bottom income deciles.

Smart people have smart children because intelligence like height is largely inherited. People who love learning have children who love learning because they teach them to do the same, both directly and via example. You can bet that children who are read to by their parents each day are much more likely to end up at Amherst than children who are not so fortunate. Hard-working people have hard-working children because these parents make their children work hard, thereby teaching them the value of hard work, of ambition and striving.

Now, it turns out that high IQ, a love of learning and hard work — for shorthand, let’s call these attributes “merit” — are also correlated with wealth. Or, rather, it is unlikely that someone blessed with these three attributes will end up in the bottom 25% of the income distribution.

But people like Marx seem blind to this reality. They really want to believe that there are thousands of undiscovered gems lying in the bottom income quartile, just waiting for open-minded souls (like Marx) to discover them and, Professor Higgins-like, transform them into polished stones.

Tony Marx was the president of Amherst at the time. He, and other naifs like Morty and Cappy Hill ’76, thought that they could meaningfully increase the percentage of poor students at places like Williams without meaningfully decreasing the quality of the student body. Alas, you can’t.

It isn’t a “psychology and sociology thing”, much less a “pricing thing.” It is a reality thing.

If you are upset that I haven’t provided enough evidence for these claims, have no worries! I have nine more days of posts all queued up . . .

In case it disappears from the web, the entire article is below the break.

Read more


What a Feeling

Good stuff. Forward to 2:05 to see Morty dancing.

More students should create videos like this.


College Sports Project

Interesting press release from Middlebury:

The College Sports Project (CSP) has released a third round of analyses measuring academic outcomes for athletes and non-athletes at 84 NCAA Division III colleges and universities. “The data identify subgroups of intercollegiate athletes who do as well as, and sometimes better than, their non-athlete counterparts,” said John Emerson, Charles A Dana Professor of Mathematics at Middlebury College and the study’s principal investigator. “By examining various subgroups of students, college presidents can see which students and teams are doing well academically, and which may need attention and help.”

“As past President of one of the CSP institutions, I always found these reports interesting and instructive. I’m proud of Northwestern University’s role in providing a secure locale for collecting and managing this large data set and a supportive environment for the team headed by Rachelle Brooks that has performed these valuable analyses,” said Morton Schapiro, President of Northwestern University.

The data continue to indicate relatively modest differences in grade-point averages (GPAs) between female athletes and non-athletes. In contrast, male recruited athletes generally have lower GPAs than their non-athlete counterparts.

Good stuff. There is a great senior thesis to be written using this data. You should write it!


College Condemns Classroom Sex Show … WSJ

From the Wall Street Journal

“CHICAGO—Northwestern University reversed course on Thursday and condemned a live demonstration of sex in a classroom, after defending the act earlier in the week.

“Many members of the Northwestern community are disturbed by what took place on our campus,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said in a statement. “So am I.” He said the university was launching an investigation”.

Thanks to jfw for his email heads up. PST prevents more timely posting.

Original EphBlog post by Ronit and following discussion here. Prediction of one discussant proves correct.


In other ivory towers…

One wonders if Schapiro is starting to miss Williams…

Schapiro “disappointed” by sex toy demonstration

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said he was “troubled and disappointed” upon hearing that Weinberg professor John Michael Bailey allowed a non-student presenter to be voluntarily masturbated with a sex toy during an optional after-class demonstration.

The full statement follows below:

I have recently learned of the after-class activity associated with Prof. Michael Bailey’s Human Sexuality class, and I am troubled and disappointed by what occurred.

Although the incident took place in an after-class session that students were not required to attend and students were advised in advance, several times, of the explicit nature of the activity, I feel it represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member. I simply do not believe this was appropriate, necessary or in keeping with Northwestern University’s academic mission.

Northwestern faculty members engage in teaching and research on a wide variety of topics, some of them controversial. That is the nature of a university. However, in this instance, I have directed that we investigate fully the specifics of this incident, and also clarify what constitutes appropriate pedagogy, both in this instance and in the future.

Many members of the Northwestern community are disturbed by what took place on our campus. So am I.

More to come.

More from the Daily Northwestern:

Update 2: University spokesman Al Cubbage has released the following statement regarding the incident:

“Northwestern University faculty members engage in teaching and research on a wide variety of topics, some of them controversial and at the leading edge of their respective disciplines. The university supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge.”

Update: Prof. John Michael Bailey has released a statement regarding the demonstration. Read it here.

Northwestern students and administrators are defending an explicit after-class demonstration involving a woman being publicly penetrated by a sex toy on stage in the popular Human Sexuality course last week.

The optional presentation last Monday, attended by about 120 students, featured a naked non-student woman being repeatedly sexually stimulated to the point of orgasm by the sex toy, referred to as a “fucksaw.” The device is essentially a motorized phallus.

The 600-person course, taught by psychology Prof. John Michael Bailey, is one of the largest at NU. The after-class events, which range from a question-and-answer session with swingers to a panel of convicted sex offenders, are a popular feature of the class. But they’re optional and none of the material is included on exams.

Last Wednesday, Bailey devoted six minutes of his lecture to addressing mounting controversy regarding the incident and articulating his educational intent. He told the class he feared the demonstration would impact the after-class events, which are sponsored by the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and he explained the educational purpose of the events.

“I think that these after-class events are quite valuable. Why? One reason is that I think it helps us understand sexual diversity,” he said, according to an audio file obtained by The Daily.

“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but watching naked people on stage doing pleasurable things will never hurt you,” he said to loud applause at the end of his speech.

Thanks to Brandi for sending the link.



Induction Seminar: Introduction

This post begins a month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction Address. Let’s dive in:


I am honored and humbled to stand before you as the seventeenth president of Williams. I’m deeply grateful to Greg Avis, the Board of Trustees, and the Search Committee for allowing me this remarkable opportunity. I follow in the steps of previous Williams presidents who set the highest standards for academic leadership and I’m especially pleased that two of them – Frank Oakley and John Chandler – honor us with their presence today.


Welcome! Note:

  • This seminar will feature comments by both me (Dave Kane ’88) and Ken Thomas ’93. We will separate out comments like this, so you know who is speaking. If you would like to join us, please let us know. (You will need to sign up as an EphBlog author to do so. Top of my fantasy draft for this project would be Guy Creese ’75, Will Slack ’11 and hwc.) The main benefit is that your comments will appear in the post itself. All readers are, as always, free to add their thoughts to the comment thread which follows each post.
  • Each day, we will quote a paragraph or two from the speech. (We will not skip anything.) We are also considering providing a link to the video, adjusted so clicking on it takes you to the correct place in the talk. See above for today’s example. Do readers find this useful or annoying? Let us know!

In terms of substance, note what is missing from the opening paragraph: Morty Schapiro. Obviously, he was invited. Did he have a family obligation which precluded his attendance? Uhh, not so much.

Given all that Williams has done for Morty, do you think he should have missed a football game to attend Falk’s induction?


Greetings all, and a warm welcome from Jerusalem this afternoon. As David put it to me, I think there’s a ton of material here– actually I told David, I think there’s enough material fill the four-and-a-half ton dump truck at Deep Springs.

What kind of material that is, remains for us to explore. That is, — well, in terms of substance, I think there’s a lot of things Adam Falk could have done here, that he didn’t. There are a lot of tones and approaches, that he didn’t take.

For this seminar though, we’d like to move though the material in a matter which is both a little choppy, and a little upbeat, while maintaining a back-and-forth between David and me, — to keep things interesting.

Call this post-game analysis of the induction speech, which is going to turn to close reading. While I will turn serious at times, I’m going to try to keep detail in the comments, at the top, which you might consider “the footnotes.”

My first footnote comment, is going to be, a little bit of why spending a month reading and talking about Falk speech, is darn important. But be warned. If you read yesterdays’ New York Times, I’m the kinda guy who thought spending three hours with Prof. Bernstein talking about Hegel is fun.

If you think that sounds like having your teeth pulled, you may wish to move on at times. You’ve been warned.

But– to the text in front of us.

Well, David! This is a fine intro. I don’t know that I really care about Morton Shapiro that much, nor am sure– well, I don’t think we should over-read here.

What else could Falk have done here? Perhaps lay out a project? Perhaps deliver a bold vision– the College in the Twenty-First Century?

He does not. He thanks the people who were involved in bringing him to Williams, and he hearkens to the tradition of– previous Presidents, and two very particular Presidents. He begins by invoking tradition, in a very simple and unassuming way– I think you’ll hear echoes of this as we move forward.

And Morton Schapiro? What of him? I guess being at the game at his new institution was more important to him than being in Williamstown– read what you will into that– I guess I’ll keep wondering if he watched online, but what of it?


A Williams Parent on Morty

From Dartblog:

Morty Schapiro was a very impressive and effective president at Williams — he set the standard. He was present and personable, engaged and available on campus. He quietly prided himself in knowing each Williams student by name and something about them, so that when you saw him walking across campus, he would greet you by name and might stop to briefly ask you about your sports team’s recent struggles or accomplishments or how your workload is coming in that particularly tough Economics class you are taking that semester.

The students, alums and faculty (so far as I could tell) loved and respected Morty. He is the best speaker I have ever heard in academia. He rarely talked for more than 5 or 10 minutes, even at major occasions, but you sat with your gaze riveted to the dais, lest you miss a word. He would say fresh, insightful things, appropriate to the occasion, laced with his characteristic understatement, humor and dry wit (much of it self-deprecating), and you found yourself ruminating on his remarks hours or days later. He rarely made himself or his role the focus of his remarks. He was comfortable in his own skin, and it put everyone else at ease and made you feel comfortable as well. In an elite, innately competitive environment like Williams, that is no small feat.



Morty on Sheehy

From the Big Green Alert Blog:

“You had me at hello.”

That memorable line from Jerry Maguire – ironically a football movie – came to mind during Tuesday’s media gathering introducing Harry Sheehy as Dartmouth’s new director of athletics.

Frank Sinatra never worked a room any better than Sheehy did the smart classroom at Floren Varsity House as the former AD at Williams hit all the right notes after being introduced by Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim.

Say what you will about Sheehy, but he is a charmer. If Sheehy wants you to like him, you will. Read more


YouTube: Williams’ Future in Global Context

For the audience–

Please provide summary, questions, or just ignore me!


Peter Nurnberg ’09 turns his thesis into a working paper!

Originally posted by Will Slack ’11 on WSO.

Coauthors: Morton Schapiro, David Zimmerman


The college choice process can be reduced to three questions:

1) Where does a student apply?

2) Which schools accept the students?

3) Which offer of admission does the student accept?

This paper addresses question three. Specifically, we offer an econometric analysis of the matriculation decisions made by students accepted to Williams College, one of the nation’s most highly selective colleges and universities. We use data for the Williams classes of 2008 through 2012 to estimate a yield model. We find that—conditional on the student applying to and being accepted by Williams—applicant quality as measured by standardized tests, high school GPA and the like, the net price a particular student faces (the sticker price minus institutional financial aid), the applicant’s race and geographic origin, plus the student’s artistic, athletic and academic interests, are strong predictors of whether or not the student will matriculate.

Full paper here or here (for those without NBER access).


No Bigger Tearjerker

From a March 31, 2000 Chronicle of Higher Education story titled, “In Era of Megagifts, Colleges Try to Keep Nurturing (and Soliciting) Donors of Lesser Means.”

Southern California’s College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences has taken another approach. Realizing the need to more effectively honor donors who make gifts of $ 50,000 to several million dollars, officials began a lunch series a few years ago. In what is essentially a group hug, donors and students express what the donations mean to them. “There is no bigger tearjerker,” says Morton O. Schapiro, dean of the college.

Such events work because “the primary motivation in giving is emotion, and not rational thought,” says Mr. Carter, the fund-raising consultant. “The more emotion involved in the transaction, the better.”

Fund raisers at Southern California now “concentrate much more now on the smaller gifts than we did before,” Mr. Schapiro says. “When you get those megagifts, you have to really make sure you do everything possible to signal to people that smaller gifts do very much matter.”

Soliciting low-end gifts is an expensive business — more so than for high-end gifts, which cost about eight or nine cents per dollar raised, Mr. Schapiro estimates. By comparison, gifts to the annual fund cost about 20 cents per dollar, he says. But if low-end donors feel disenfranchised, there is more at stake than $50 here or $1,000 there, say fund-raising specialists: Donors can graduate from little gifts to big ones.

Southern California’s fund raisers relish the story of Joseph Pertusati, who every year gave $ 100 to the university’s annual fund. No one paid much attention until the year he increased his contribution to $ 100,000. The development office immediately called on Mr. Pertusati, who ultimately left the university a bequest of property with an estimated value of $ 10-million.

I wonder how much Williams spends on different categories of fund raising, both in total and in terms of cents per dollar raised.


Morty’s Strategic Plan at Northwestern

Morty seems to be moving into gear at Northwestern, with an emphasis on inclusivity and environmental issues. 

“We have a long way to go before our institutions can be considered truly inclusive,” said Morton Schapiro, the school’s 16th president. “I’m not talking about tolerance. People don’t want to be tolerated. They want to be full members of the community.”

Schapiro, 56, said he would work to ensure that the 158-year-old university helps provide an education for people of all backgrounds. During a 90-minute ceremony resplendent with scores of professors in colorful regalia, he also stressed that Northwestern has a moral imperative to use its resources to help address environmental issues.

“I’ve lived in this country all of my life and the environmental degradation that my generation has witnessed and implicitly approved sometimes makes me embarrassed to face my three children,” he said.

The conventional wisdom, Schapiro said, was that once developing countries become rich enough, they can afford to care about the environment. Trained as an economist, he said he didn’t find that argument compelling.

“There’s a moral and an economic imperative not to delay” in addressing the problem, he said. “And Northwestern needs to help lead those efforts.”

Read the whole article here. 

*Thank you to Dave for the link.


Morty becomes President of Northwestern this Friday

Commenter “1980” writes to us that Morty Schapiro is being “sworn in” as President of Northwestern this Friday. As you might imagine there are a number of campus activities surrounding this event. Northwestern is very enthusiastic about their new President:

The inauguration festivities will kick off late Wednesday night when President Schapiro holds a “LiveWired Conversation.” Northwestern students will have an opportunity to go online and chat with President Schapiro and leaders of student organizations who will be with the president at Norris University Center. Students are encouraged to participate, either in person or online.

Tickets are also still available to a special inauguration concert featuring Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter John Legend that will be held at 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. A valid WildCARD is required to purchase tickets, which are available at

On Saturday, the inauguration festivities will conclude with festivities at Wildcat Alley north of Welsh-Ryan Arena and the Northwestern football game against Miami of Ohio at Ryan Field. Kick-off for the game is 11 a.m. and Wildcat Alley will open two hours prior to game time.

At halftime of the game, four teams of Northwestern students representing each undergraduate class will participate in the “Schapiro Challenge” – a special relay race that will include wheelbarrows, textbooks and dizzy bat spinning and officiated by President Schapiro. Students are invited to cheer on their class during the special event.

On a slightly less respectful note, one of the student newspapers at Northwestern decided to welcome Morty to campus via a quiz entitled President’s first encounter with a drunk freshman: choose your own adventure!, which contains gratuitous insults about Williams:

Here at Northwestern, we aren’t limp-limbed intellectuals like those kids at Williams, we are proactive doers. You would have been better-off kicking her down the stairs.

We won’t stoop to that level here on EphBlog. We have a great deal of respect for Northwestern, which is easily the second- or third-best university in the Chicago area. And on the topic of drunk freshmen, I would wager that the average Williams freshman can drink the average NU freshman under the table, so Morty should have no trouble adjusting.


Some Beg to Differ

In response to a suggestion that Williams be more pro-actively transparent by posting its annual Form 990s, (then) President Shapiro disagreed and said he thought “we were transparent enough.”  That is hardly an incontrovertible view,  so in the spirit of academic discussion, that position  may be examined and challenged.

For instance, while it is true that the college (like most private colleges, but not Bennington!) posts its audited financial statements, the detail in these is poor beer compared with the coverage of specific activities shown by the Form 990.  An interesting exercise would be a comparison of these two reports and, indeed, one might be forthcoming in this EphBlog space before too long.  Such an exercise shows that valuable elements of transparency are added to the college portrait when the 990 is included in the information set.

In response to an earlier post on this subject, one comment (by Mike) argued that the Form 990 is “easy to find” (e.g., on and, therefore, why press the college to post its own?   Sure, the Form 990 is easy to find, but only if the user is familiar with the 990 itself, knows about the Guidestar website, and is also a registered Guidestar user.   The number of such users is not large among potentially interested parties.   Face it:   this ain’t easy or obvious for lots of people.  Whatever that degree of “ease,” however, it is surely  much much easier for colleges to simply offer these reports to their alumni and donors by simply putting them up on their websites.

By the way, the arguments deployed here with respect to Williams apply with equal force to all other private colleges and universities (represented by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities – NAICU, itself a nonprofit, which offers its own Form 990 here), and also to the myriads of other “charitable organizations” in the current nonprofit universe.  There are about 2 million of them, these days.  So, this is not to pick on Williams alone.

Read more


The 2008 Form 990 Debuts on Guidestar

The Williams Form 990 for Fiscal 2008 (viz., July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008) finally showed up on the Guidestar website yesterday, almost 14 months after the end of the reporting period.    For those, like myself, who think this document is very useful and affords more detailed insight into the finances and activities of the college, this is too long a wait.

For the last several years Williams has been filing its Form 990 with the IRS at the very outer limit of the permitted reporting window, around mid-May of the following fiscal year.   That is, the 4 1/2 month normal reporting limit,  plus the 3 month extension granted automatically on request, plus a second (and final) extension, which must also be requested by the reporting institution.   That makes the 10 1/2 months of “reporting lag.”   Add in the ca. 2 1/2 to 3  months it requires for Guidetar (and others) to acquire this material from the IRS Ogden office, and that accounts for the approximately 14 months before this material becomes “publicly visible” to interested parties on any website.

Some other colleges and universities do better, by filing earlier and themselves posting these documents on their own websites, something that will be detailed in a subsequent post in this space.

Compare the 10 1/2 month reporting delay and almost 3 month posting lag for Williams with the availability of the college’s audited financial statments, the latest of which was signed by the auditors on September 18, 2008, less than 3 months after the close of the 2008 fiscal year.  These, to be sure, are posted, albeit discretely, on the college website, although exact date of posting is not clear to me.  In fact, almost all colleges and universities I have reviewed seem to put these accounts up for their constituency to see.  But not Bennington!


Morty says “No” to Greater Financial Transparency: the Background

In a post on EphBlog (my first) on July 20, I recounted briefly how Williams President Shapiro said “No” to my suggestion that Williams  promote greater financial transparency by posting its annual Forms 990 on the college website.  The current post gives the background to the story and, of course, expresses the hope that Williams, under new administration, will “come around” and see the issue from a different perspective.

The Form 990, as data nerds know, is the annual information return filed by the majority of 501(c)(3) nonprofit, “charitable” organizations with the IRS.  Williams and other private colleges are among those organizations.  These forms are to be filed within 4 ½ months after the end of the nonprofit’s fiscal year which, in the case of most educational establishments, is end-June.  In certain circumstances a nonprofit can get up to six months additional time to file, but within at most 10 ½ months after fiscal year end, the 990s should be in hands of the IRS.

It is useful to note that a Form 990 is, by law, a public document.   The filing institution is obliged to make it available on request and/or provide a hard copy at cost, of the most recent three years’ reports.  The IRS will also furnish a copy if contacted using Form 4506-A, Request for Public Inspection or Copy of Exempt or Political Organization, the title of which is, yes, a bit of a mouthful.  For those “in the know,” recent Forms 990 can also be downloaded from (the nom de web of Philanthropic Research, Inc.) and a couple of other sites.  But, there are substantial lags before these documents make it to GuideStar, and in some cases they are not very timely when they get there.  In the case of Williams, it has frequently been a year to a year and half (measured from fiscal year end) before Form 990 filings make it to the GuideStar site.

Read more


Greater Financial Transparency? Morty says “No.”

During the recent reunion weekend, in a public meeting, President Shapiro said “No” to the suggestion that Williams should post on its website the Forms 990 it submits on an annual basis to the IRS, even though the information in these forms is, by law, open to the public.    Details on this exchange coming shortly.


Thanks, Morty

Today is Morty’s last day as president of Williams. Have you thanked him yet? You should! (I just did.) Although you will get a misleading bounce-back message, e-mail sent to Morton.Owen.Schapiro at still reaches him as he unpacks his boxes in Evanston. So, send him a thank-you note — and tell him that EphBlog sent you!

If I had to single out the most important aspect of Morty’s presidency for me, it would be the way that he was always so open, honest and thoughtful in his public discussions of Williams policies. (Great collection of examples here and here.) I am unaware of any elite college/university president who has maintained such high standards of transparency. Say what you will about the substance of his decisions, but Morty always called them like he saw them. For that, and many other accomplishments, I will always be a fan.

What Morty accomplishment is your favorite? (Only good things today, please! Criticisms come tomorrow).


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