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Dickinson Could Have Done Better

This comment from 2008 captures a part, I suspect, of why Nancy Roseman was such a failure at Dickinson.

An effective head of an organization has to be able to maintain good relations with a whole range of people, in this case including faculty, students, and parents. Being able to reliably kiss donor ass is not sufficient if you lack the personality to get faculty, students, and the larger community on board with your strategy.

Take a look at cluster housing. Would you say the implementation of cluster housing was an example of effective executive decision-making? That process was the most major project that Roseman drove during my time at Williams, and it bore her hallmarks: planned out in secret with little chance for outsiders to give any input, implemented in a rush with total indifference towards student or faculty opinion, and an utter flop within two years of implementation.

I believe that someone with better ‘marketing’ and ‘people’ skills would have been much more successful at implementing something like cluster housing. The plan might still have had substantive problems, but Roseman utterly and totally failed to generate student buy-in, primarily because it was obvious that she was basically indifferent to what students had to say.

There is a kernel of truth in what David has said. She does not welcome or respect student participation when it comes to any kind of major decision. Her publicly expressed contempt for blogs does, I believe, reflect a broader dislike for open discussion. While this might, in theory, make her more suitable as a high school administrator – I sincerely doubt that the kids at Exeter are the docile and passive type of high schooler who will take her high-handedness lying down.

To the trustees and administrators of PEA: While Nancy Roseman is a smart, competent person, she is not a great leader. You can do better.

Prescient! Prior discussion of Roseman’s failure at Dickison here and here.

The other finalist for the Dickinson job was Mark Burnstein, who went on to become president of Lawrence University. Bet the Dickinson trustees wish they had picked him instead!

Question: If Roseman is no longer president, when does her fat presidential salary stop? And what is her new professor of biology salary? These sorts of messy issues rarely come up because very few college presidents are fired. Given today’s academic job market — and Roseman’s obvious failure as a senior administrator — what sort of options will she have? Informed commentary welcome!

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More Details on Roseman’s Failure at Dickinson

That Nancy Roseman has been the biggest Eph failure as a college president in a generation is beyond dispute.1 But what are the details behind that failure? Was it her cold fish personality? Her social justice warrior crusades? Both? Neither? Enquiring Ephs want to know! A Williams professor forwarded this article (pdf) from the Chronicle of Education.

Nancy A. Roseman’s announcement this week that she would resign as president of Dickinson College bore the standard features of a politely handled parting of the ways. A news release, citing her contributions, sidestepped the fact that the president’s tenure of just three years was considerably shorter than expected and left unmentioned that the decision followed an outside review of her performance.

Perhaps an enemy (or friend?) of Roseman’s at Dickinson could send us the details behind that performance review.

Ms. Roseman recognizes, however, that observers may have concluded that the decision to step down on June 30 was not entirely her own. But the departing president said she saw what the future held at the Pennsylvania college, and it was a six-to-eight-year capital campaign that would effectively cap off her professional life.

What a pathetic fig leaf! Roseman knew, when she took the job, that Dickinson, like every other college, was planning a multi-year capital campaign. That is the primary job of the president!

Professors at Dickinson may be heaping praise on Ms. Roseman by email, but a number of them have been tight-lipped when contacted by The Chronicle. Anthony Pires, chairman of the college’s Faculty Personnel Committee, said on Monday that he did not feel comfortable characterizing the faculty’s feelings about her leadership and he would not offer up his personal assessment, either. Several other professors either did not respond to interview requests or declined to talk. “It is what it is,” one faculty member said, before politely ending a brief phone
call.

Indeed it is.

1Only competitor that comes to mind is a philosophy (?) professor (buddy of Bill Bennett’s ?) who was selected to lead a liberal arts college (in Maine?) several decades ago but was ushered out after just a few years. Or am I imagining that?

UPDATE: Charles Karelis, President of Colgate from 1999 to 2001 was who I was thinking of. The only news summary (that I can find) of his two (!) year tenure is here. Anyone know the details? Reading between the lines, it looks like he jumped because he didn’t really like being a college president instead of being pushed, as was Roseman.

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Roseman a Failure as Dickinson President

From former Dean of the College Nancy Roseman, current President of Dickinson College:

During these past three years, I have grown to love Dickinson and its unwavering commitment to prepare young people, through our useful approach to a liberal-arts education, to be engaged citizens in service to our communities.

So it is with mixed emotions that I inform you that I will be resigning as president of Dickinson College, effective June 30.

To leave a college presidency less than three years after you started, and with little warning, is a sign of utter failure. Does anyone know the background story? Many Ephs have gone on to college presidencies. Has anyone done worse than Roseman? Not that I can name.

Could the (incompetent) Dickinson search committee that selected Roseman have done a better job? You betcha! They could have read EphBlog. Roseman was obviously unsuited to the roll of college president.

Comment from an anonymous Williams faculty member:

I’m told she still has her house in W-town. God forbid that she returns to the College.

So say we all.

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Four Letter Word, Ten Year Later

This post was originally written ten years ago. More true today than ever?
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What is the stupidest, most out of touch statement by a senior faculty member to be published in the Record in the last year? Good question! Given all the misrepresentations concerning anchor housing, the competition is a tough one. But I am going with this.

To bring discussion [on racial incidents] to a more public arena, Schapiro and Roseman are hosting an open forum in Griffin at 8:30 p.m. tonight. Roseman said she felt that WSO blogs are ultimately limited in lasting value, despite the good content they sometimes contain. “They’re not really a dialogue,” she said. “They always degenerate over time.”

Pathetic. Roseman was also reported to refer to “blog” as a “four letter word” — i.e., something that she thought was not just useless but positively harmful.

First, does Roseman even read the WSO blogs? In other interviews, she has claimed not to. How can she know that they are “not really a dialogue” if she doesn’t read them regularly? How does she know that they “always” degenerate? Now, she is under no obligation to read the blogs, but if she is ignorant on the topic she has no business being insulting.

Second, the WSO blogs have many, many examples of incredibly lucid and subtle dialogue. Consider Katherine Dieber ’07 on campus racism:

In my opinion, the crime is not fearing, but letting that fear dictate actions. I’m always questioning whether or not I’m subconsciously racist or afraid, and if that’s the deeper reason for the way I interact with people of different backgrounds. Here’s my confession: I question most my interactions with black people. I wonder if I should be taking bigger steps to blend white American culture with black American culture, and this sort of worry colors my interactions with black people (until/unless I get to know them fairly well). Frankly, I’m intimidated. Am I the privileged white kid that black kids see as their enemy, or at least opposite?

Or Nick Greer ’08 on the Odd Quad:

We’ve built our own culture, we built the kind of tightly-knit “cluster” that you want for yourself, but one that excludes you. We built a culture that accepts even the most socially awkward. First years that have already given up on their entry? They’re in Currier common room hanging with us. People like you Kati- I mean Jessica, you make up 80% of this campus so from your perspective clusters aren’t that bad. I mean you may share a bathroom with that frumpy girl who plays D&D but it’s not like she hangs out with you or anything. No, Friday nights when your cluster is having another OC party she’s in her room. Oh, you’re so nice, you’ll invite her to come? Well she’s not interested, she hates you remember. Not everyone on campus likes that sort of thing and when you assume everyone on campus is like you, you exclude the people who are not.

Or Diana Davis ’07 on athletics at Williams:

My childhood friend, who is a year younger than I, looked at Williams when she was considering her college choices. She plays the oboe and the piano, sings, dances, acts, and does all sorts of wonderful things, but she is not an athlete. On her tour, she and her dad report that her tour guide repeated three times the impressive statistic that Williams wins 77% of its games. She was turned off by this athletic focus, and nothing I said could get her to reconsider and apply to Williams. This is sad. Are we alienating many such prospective students? Look on the bright side — that leaves more spots for athletes!

Or Cassandra Montenegro ’06 on Queer Bash pornography.

i didn’t know what to expect going into my first queer bash, but it wasn’t that. i was in no way warned. i dressed up for (what i was told was) the semester’s best party and left feeling the victim. i was so confused as why someone would do that to me–with no concern for my feelings. i couldn’t ‘just look away’ if i didn’t like it, like my friends told me to do. it was more than that, it was the principle. why porn? why on a screen? why at a campus party?

If Roseman doesn’t think that this sort of writing — and the larger dialogues in which they are embedded on the blogs — is the heart and soul of what a Williams education should be, then she is an idiot. More importantly, dozens of similar examples are available for all to see.

Third, it’s not that similar dialogues don’t occur over Mission lunches and late night pizza, just as they did 20 years ago. There are few better parts of a Williams education than the talks/arguments you have with your fellow Ephs. But the blogs provide an extra dimension that we lacked back in the day. They give students a chance to think for a moment about what they want to say, to pause and reflect on the opinions of others. The blogs are not a substitute for other dialogue, they are a complement.

Fourth, any regular blog reader will tell you that the blogs have two big advantages over in-person dialogues. First, they often bring together Ephs who don’t know each other well, who don’t share a dorm or classroom together. Second, they provide a way for the rest of us to listen in, to learn from the conversations among our fellow Ephs.

Why is Roseman so blind to the benefits that the blogs bring to Williams? Tough to know, but I’ll freely speculate. I think that there is a certain kind of administrator who does not really trust the students, who thinks that any discussion on a controversial topic needs to be supervised and moderated. This sort of administrator likes campus forums and classroom discussions because some adult is in control, someone is running the show. For this sort of person, the blogs are anarchic, out of control, always degenerating, making more trouble. A real dialogue includes a teacher, a Socratic figure who guides the benighted students.

Blogs are messy. They aid the students in doing for themselves what the College is unable and, often, unwilling to do for them. They represent a loss of control for Hopkins Hall.

I don’t know if Roseman is this sort of administrator. Perhaps there is some other explanation for her ridiculous comments. But, regardless of the explanation, the messiness is here to stay. The Dean of the College today has much less control over conversation on campus than the Dean did 20 years ago. Nothing can stop that trend from continuing. Embrace the Blog, Dean Roseman. We are the future.
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Ten years later, that is all the more true. Ever heard of Yik Yak? Williams students are still discussing things, but those discussions are less open and inviting. And, because forums like Yik Yak are anonymous, they are much more hurtful than they ever were on WSO.

A well-run school would urge WSO to bring back Discussions and make them readable by all.

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Four Letter Word, Nine Year Later

This post was originally written nine years ago. But yesterday’s discussion about the demise of WSO Discussions provides an occasion to revisit, with minor edits.
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What is the stupidest, most out of touch statement by a senior faculty member to be published in the Record in the last year? Good question! Given all the misrepresentations concerning anchor housing, the competition is a tough one. But I am going with this.

To bring discussion [on racial incidents] to a more public arena, Schapiro and Roseman are hosting an open forum in Griffin at 8:30 p.m. tonight. Roseman said she felt that WSO blogs are ultimately limited in lasting value, despite the good content they sometimes contain. “They’re not really a dialogue,” she said. “They always degenerate over time.”

Pathetic. Roseman was also reported to refer to “blog” as a “four letter word” — i.e., something that she thought was not just useless but positively harmful.

First, does Roseman even read the WSO blogs? In other interviews, she has claimed not to. How can she know that they are “not really a dialogue” if she doesn’t read them regularly? How does she know that they “always” degenerate? Now, she is under no obligation to read the blogs, but if she is ignorant on the topic she has no business being insulting.

Second, the WSO blogs have many, many examples of incredibly lucid and subtle dialogue. Consider Katherine Dieber ’07 on campus racism:

In my opinion, the crime is not fearing, but letting that fear dictate actions. I’m always questioning whether or not I’m subconsciously racist or afraid, and if that’s the deeper reason for the way I interact with people of different backgrounds. Here’s my confession: I question most my interactions with black people. I wonder if I should be taking bigger steps to blend white American culture with black American culture, and this sort of worry colors my interactions with black people (until/unless I get to know them fairly well). Frankly, I’m intimidated. Am I the privileged white kid that black kids see as their enemy, or at least opposite?

Or Nick Greer ’08 on the Odd Quad:

We’ve built our own culture, we built the kind of tightly-knit “cluster” that you want for yourself, but one that excludes you. We built a culture that accepts even the most socially awkward. First years that have already given up on their entry? They’re in Currier common room hanging with us. People like you Kati- I mean Jessica, you make up 80% of this campus so from your perspective clusters aren’t that bad. I mean you may share a bathroom with that frumpy girl who plays D&D but it’s not like she hangs out with you or anything. No, Friday nights when your cluster is having another OC party she’s in her room. Oh, you’re so nice, you’ll invite her to come? Well she’s not interested, she hates you remember. Not everyone on campus likes that sort of thing and when you assume everyone on campus is like you, you exclude the people who are not.

Or Diana Davis ’07 on athletics at Williams:

My childhood friend, who is a year younger than I, looked at Williams when she was considering her college choices. She plays the oboe and the piano, sings, dances, acts, and does all sorts of wonderful things, but she is not an athlete. On her tour, she and her dad report that her tour guide repeated three times the impressive statistic that Williams wins 77% of its games. She was turned off by this athletic focus, and nothing I said could get her to reconsider and apply to Williams. This is sad. Are we alienating many such prospective students? Look on the bright side — that leaves more spots for athletes!

Or Cassandra Montenegro ’06 on Queer Bash pornography.

i didn’t know what to expect going into my first queer bash, but it wasn’t that. i was in no way warned. i dressed up for (what i was told was) the semester’s best party and left feeling the victim. i was so confused as why someone would do that to me–with no concern for my feelings. i couldn’t ‘just look away’ if i didn’t like it, like my friends told me to do. it was more than that, it was the principle. why porn? why on a screen? why at a campus party?

If Roseman doesn’t think that this sort of writing — and the larger dialogues in which they are embedded on the blogs — is the heart and soul of what a Williams education should be, then she is an idiot. More importanly, dozens of similar examples are available for all to see.

Third, it’s not that similar dialogues don’t occur over Mission lunches and late night pizza, just as they did 20 years ago. There are few better parts of a Williams education than the talks/arguments you have with your fellow Ephs. But the blogs provide an extra dimension that we lacked back in the day. They give students a chance to think for a moment about what they want to say, to pause and reflect on the opinions of others. The blogs are not a substitute for other dialogue, they are a complement.

Fourth, any regular blog reader will tell you that the blogs have two big advantages over in-person dialogues. First, they often bring together Ephs who don’t know each other well, who don’t share a dorm or classroom together. Second, they provide a way for the rest of us to listen in, to learn from the conversations among our fellow Ephs.

Why is Roseman so blind to the benefits that the blogs bring to Williams? Tough to know, but I’ll freely speculate. I think that there is a certain kind of administrator who does not really trust the students, who thinks that any discussion on a controversial topic needs to be supervised and moderated. This sort of administrator likes campus forums and classroom discussions because some adult is in control, someone is running the show. For this sort of person, the blogs are anarchic, out of control, always degenerating, making more trouble. A real dialogue includes a teacher, a Socratic figure who guides the benighted students.

Blogs are messy. They aid the students in doing for themselves what the College is unable and, often, unwilling to do for them. They represent a loss of control for Hopkins Hall.

I don’t know if Roseman is this sort of administrator. Perhaps there is some other explanation for her ridiculous comments. But, regardless of the explanation, the messiness is here to stay. The Dean of the College today has much less control over conversation on campus than the Dean did 20 years ago. Nothing can stop that trend from continuing. Embrace the Blog, Dean Roseman. We are the future.
—————————

Nine years later, that is all the more true. Ever heard of Yik Yak? Williams students are still discussing things, but those discussions are less open and inviting. And, because forums like Yik Yak are anonymous, they are much more hurtful than they ever were on WSO.

A well-run school would urge WSO to bring back Discussions and make them readable by all.

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On online discussions: WSO Video

Well-done video about WSO discussions brings up various issues. Highly recommended.

WSO Documentary from Shawn Curley on Vimeo.

My comments on the issues (&etc):

1) Note the cameo by Eph Blogger Andrew Liu ’11, participant in my Winter Study and soon-to-be summer intern. Yeah, Andrew!

2) David Moore discusses the distant past of WSO when logins were anonymous. He doesn’t know the full story. Who can provide the details? I think it involved a series (?) of threads around the theme of “I hate fags.”

3) Best line (paraphrased): “WSO makes me believe in Tourette’s on a key board.”

4) I second all of Will Slacks ’11 comments.

5) Patrick Chaney: If not WSO, then what? Notes that all (?) the public forums he has attended at Williams have had two problems: few people and a lack of viewpoint diversity among attendees. If there is a controversial topic on WSO, you can mostly count on all sides being intelligently presented. (Agreed! Note my clasic rant on this topic, responding to then-Dean of the College Nancy Roseman’s claim that “blog” was a “four letter word.” Read more

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Nancy Roseman finalist for Principal of Phillips Exeter

The Principal Search Committee at Phillips Exeter Academy has narrowed their choices down to finalists, and Nancy Roseman, Dean at Williams, is one of them.

Unfortunately, the school paper is not online, so I have not read the article announcing this, nor can I link to it for you. However, I have recently been asked by students and teachers at Exeter: Do you think Nancy Roseman would make a good principal for our school? I have no idea, since I had only one (negative) interaction with her. Those of you who know more about her, what do you think?

To aid you in your evaluative metric, note that students at Exeter want a principal who will be visible around campus and who will try to get to know them (1,000 students). The most important job of the principal for the school is traveling around and shmoozing with alums to raise money. Exeter’s 13th principal has done a great job of this, and now Exeter is free for families making under $75,000. How do you think Nancy Roseman would be at this job?

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A False Accusation of Rape

I have been looking for more details on a false accusation of rape and assault that was (allegedly) made by a Williams student several years ago. Back in 2005, Loweeel wrote:

A “fake rape” story actually happened during my sophomore year (IIRC, maybe it was my junior year). This girl STABBED herself in the thigh, and claimed that her off-campus boyfriend came in, raped her, and stabbed her.

Needless to say, the frantic and denunciatory emails flew from Hopkins as fast as a bullet from a mishandled firearm. Needless to say, they were about as accurate as well.

It turns out that (again, IIRC) she wanted attention from him after he broke up with her (and there was nothing about him doing it in any bad ways). Hopkins eventually admitted that it was a false alarm, and the girl withdrew for psychiatric reasons. Despite the fact that campus was turned upside down on this unsubstantiated accusation, there was never going to be any disciplinary proceeding initiated against her.

Can anyone provide more details? I have no interest in reporting this student’s name, but I would like to narrow down the date, link to any Record stories, provide copies of any all-campus e-mails and so on. What do you remember of this event?

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Party Tonight

The annual meeting of the Boston Alumni Society is tonight at 6:00 PM. If you’re an EphBlog reader, please say Hello. I’ll be there with my lovely wife. And, if we do get in conversation, ixnay on the azinay untinghay. She is not a reader.

Dean Roseman will be the featured speaker. Normally, I would have a whole collection of obnoxious questions prepared. Something about violating the faculty handbook by earning hundreds of thousands of dollars as a corporate director? Or something on her contempt for blogs? (I am reliably informed that she recently referred the denizens of blogs in general. and EphBlog in particular, as “idiots.”) Or her failure to enforce the College’s policy on fraternities? So many choices!

In the end, I am too shy a person to get so argumentative. Dean Roseman has done a fine job for the last seven years. She has been everything that Morty might want in a Dean of the College. I thank her for her service. I might ask something innocuous about the College releasing its COFHE data so that all of us might judge the impact of anchor housing.

Do any EphBlog readers have a (polite!) question that they would like me to ask?

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(A Tiny Bit Of) The Williams Deanship

What began as a comment posted to the entry on Karen Merill’s impending deanship ballooned into a longer topic that I thought I ought to start a new entry for, to spare readers of comments there and because I have no interest in discussing the content of Merill’s history of Conservatism class.

What follows are a long, yet abbreviated form of my musings on the deanship at Williams, and a few records I’ve collected from the deanships of some that preceed Merill. I became interested in the role as I worked on CC and, from meetings with my dean and closely following (and trying to predict) her actions and opinions, learned a bit about the burden that a Williams dean carries.

I have always wondered how the deanship is viewed among the faculty.
On the one hand, it is certainly an honor to be vested with such responsibility and power to do good for a community you care for. On the other hand, the position at Williams is a fascinating one in that the officeholder will always come always from the faculty, therefore applicants must be people who love to teach and research and who choose to do much less of those two things for the three or six years they are dean. In exchange, they receive the chance to serve, protect, and improve the academic community. Even at the surface of thinking about the position we find the interesting questions of who applies, if and how they are encouraged to apply (“farmed?”), and how they are selected — things I will never know, I suppose.

By a series of chances I came to know the personalities and styles of the last three deans quite well while I was at Williams: these were Professors Nancy Roseman, Peter Murphy, and Joan Edwards. I was able to experience the deanship of only Roseman, and I knew her primarily through meetings with her while I was an officer of College Council. Murphy I took a class with and worked with on research for a summer. Edwards taught the botany course that probably changed my life; I first met her at the end of my freshman year on a wildflower walk she led and am in fairly close touch with her still.

The styles of each of these people are so different that I wonder how they all became deans in their turn, and I wonder more what tenor they gave to the post. I feel I have a pretty good sense of Roseman’s style from being present for 2/3 of her office, but for the others I’ve had to let my imagination run wild with the little bits of history it has encountered.

  • Peter Murphy wrote a few opinions pieces. I found them only a while ago, though I heard of them during my studentship. I loved that he used his skills as a writer to try to win students’ minds; I wish Dean Roseman had written publicly with this goal more often.

    Murphy was apparently tenured during his deanship, basically at the end. I would guess that this is probably less meaningful than it seemed to me at first, but it felt initially odd to me to choose a professor who had (I presume?) not been at Williams long, and whose presence would be under review during his office.

  • Joan Edwards told me a story once of a time during her deanship when Lower Mission Parking Lot was being installed, and she was part of deliberations over how to secure the site. Mass planting Rosa multiflora, a thorny and prolific shrub, around the site was suggested, but she would have none of it: the plant is an invasive species. So I have always smiled to think of this very in-character curtailing of bad horticultural practice, but I have also wondered how on earth a woman as apparently sweet and infinitely patient as Edwards could have found a disciplinary side in her to do the part of the job that I think just about every Williams dean finds unpleasant.

I have good and bad memories of Dean Roseman; I knew her policies and her public style long before I met her face to face starting late sophomore year. Every week from then until my term ended a year later, I would meet with her and the other three officers of Council for lunch.

I wish every student could have this experience. There is nothing like the inextricable mix of adversarialness and partnership that one must navigate when meeting with someone who holds all the power in the relationship but whom you nevertheless wish to influence.

I could write more about Roseman than belongs in these pages, both for length and content, but I will relate a few stories that I remember from my interaction with her in this context.

  • The great majority of the time, Roseman wanted more to know about what Council was about to work on than she wanted to divulge and discuss what was about to land in our laps from her office. Not surprising, I suppose, but the contrast made it easy to spot the very noticeable times when she did want an issue to pass through Council. These were the 25-foot rule in the smoking ban, funding MassPIRG, and the recent decision not to privatize the Motor Coach, to name a few. In these cases, Dean Roseman made public that she would allow the decision of Council to guide hers, and each time Council decided in the way that I either knew or suspected she would have desired to go.

    Those weekly meetings with the officers, you can bet, always went a long way towards telling her what would happen in Council, as did her reading its minutes — something I know she did weekly in my term, at least. You have to admire that kind of ability to use the CC body in this way; I’d have admired her yet more had she done it more.

  • In my limited direct experience with her, D.R.’s most impressive moment came during the main CC meeting on St. Anthony’s Hall, which she attended, and which was covered a little already on Ephblog. She showed there that she had the power to impress and convince when given the ability to speak publicly, and from very plainly deeply held convictions. To me, this is again the best way for a dean to sway students, if she prefers speaking to writing. If I were in such a position and be able to choose whether to make my battles public or private, I would make full use of the options, and relish taking the ones I felt most strongly about public. Towards the latter part of her tenure that I witnessed, I felt that Roseman took her chance more often, as expressed in the fora she held on the 2003-4 CUL’s recommendations on alcohol policy, on the slur incident in late spring 2005, and others. I hope she continued in this vain after I left.
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History of Four Neighborhoods

One of the purposes of EphBlog is to report on and capture bits of Williams history in the making. With any luck, these bits of ephcana will be useful to future historians.

One mystery of the new neighborhood plan is where the idea of four clusters and first years in Mission Park came from. It was not mentioned in any public discussion that I can find (although my fellow social engineers and I discussed housing freshmen in Mission 20 years ago). Fortunately, Dean Roseman was on Straight Talk (WCFM talk radio show hosted by Andrew St. Louis ’09 yesterday, so I called in with a question. See below for the details.

Read more

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First Years in Mission?

I didn’t see this one coming . . .

today Will Dudley emailed the CUL, forwarding an idea from Dean Rosemen concerning the proposed cluster housing. this is a paraphrase of his email, i didn’t leave anything out.

out of concern for not enough student leaders and ‘liasons’ in the each cluster, and some dissatisfaction with the Tyler renovations, she is considering having 4 clusters instead of 5.

She values the geographic unity of clusters and therefore is considering rearanging first year entries to be located in the frosh quad, like now, and in mission park, with Morgan becoming part of the easter row-house cluster (plus 2 from greylock), the berkshire quad’s 5 buildings becoming a cluster and lehman being joined to the dodd cluster (which will also contain tyler/thompson).

this idea is brand new to the CUL, as of today. there are several positives and negatives to this idea. the freshmen class would be much more unified, the clusters would be more geographic and larger. the tyler cluster’s housing options would also be much improved. negatives include, most notably the undesirability of current first year dorms fay, east and lehmen for upperclassmen (morgan will be renovated this summer) and the last-minute nature of the idea.

it is unclear how much say the CUL has in this new idea, since it is coming from Dean Roseman. the CUL is obviously not meeting until january, but i’m sure this topic will be on our minds (maybe more than we’d like) until then, so feedback is of course welcome – that’s what the blogs are for.

And feedback does indeed ensue.

On a personal note, my fellow social engineers (that would be you, Rob Chase) and I talked/plotted the possibility of having Mission filled with freshmen. Then (as now?) there was a real bifurcation of the class between the freshmen quad/Morgan/Berkshire. Everyone recognized that the East/Fayerweather folks got the short end of the stick. Moreover, the class stayed disjoint ever afterwards because of affiliation housing. Living in Greylock for three years, there were many classmates who lived in Mission that I almost never interacted with.

But that’s all boring ancient history. I am shocked that Dean Roseman would drop this bombshell on the CUL (and now on the campus) on December 15! There is nowhere near enough time (?) to even begin to evaluate this radical change in the proposal. Isn’t the co-op draw less than 2 months away? If I were in Williamstown, I would be buying Will Dudley a beer right about now . . .

This does reinforce my notion that Dean Roseman is a social engineer par excellence. She really does think that she, and she alone, knows best. The College has gone through a year’s worth of trouble and process. Just imagine how many meetings Dudley has attended, how many e-mails he has written. And now, at this late date, Roseman has a brand new idea! She couldn’t maybe have mentioned this to Dudley last spring . . . I am sure that he would have appreciated the heads up!

But, as a longtime proponent of free-agency, this represents one last chance to save the current system. Demand another year of study! Revive anchors away!

First years should be sure to read all about this never-ending debate in our handy summary post.

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Four Letter Word

What is the stupidest, most out of touch statement by a senior faculty member to be published in the Record in the last year? Good question! Given all the misrepresentations concerning anchor housing, the competition is a tough one. But I am going with this.

To bring discussion [on racial incidents] to a more public arena, Schapiro and Roseman are hosting an open forum in Griffin at 8:30 p.m. tonight. Roseman said she felt that WSO blogs are ultimately limited in lasting value, despite the good content they sometimes contain. “They’re not really a dialogue,” she said. “They always degenerate over time.”

Pathetic. Roseman was also reported to refer to “blog” as a “four letter word” — i.e., something that she thought was not just useless but positively harmful. Rant follows.

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37,000 Reasons

Aidan, back from a blogging hiatus, comments on “37,000 reasons Williams isn’t the ‘real world'”.

In last week’s article about the Health Center forum (Feb 24, 2004), Dean Roseman was quoted saying: “welcome to the real world…this is how it works.” I find this statement troubling, and not in line with Dean Roseman’s earlier statement that Williams needs to think “about the kinds of things we can do and the kinds of programming or support systems we can put in place” instead of merely bemoaning the loss of the Health Center.

There are thirty seven thousand reasons this isn’t the “real world.”

Although lacking the sort of brillant artistic/historical reference that we have come to expect from Aidan, this article is still a fine read. [How long are you going to keep sucking up to Finley? — ed As long as it takes for him to join ephblog! Good luck. — ed]

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Fraternity Activity

One of our many campus sources, operating under the purple blanket of anonymity, sent in a copy of the Schapiro/Roseman letter.

January 26, 2004

Dear Students,

We write to clarify issues raised by a letter from College Council, distributed to all students, regarding allegations of fraternity activity among current students. Here’s what we know. Almost all of it has been reported in recent articles in the Record that we encouraged the newspaper to research and publish.

In recent months we received vague reports of fraternity activity involving current students. They included no names. The number reported to be involved was small, perhaps 25. One of those reports came from a current student. Another came from a small group of alumni who had been involved with St. Anthony Hall fraternity while students and who asked the College to grant them possession of the former goat room in what is now the Center for Development Economics. We refused that request. The group said that its activities involving current students were educational and that the College could be proud of them. We said that, if it were true that the group had nothing to hide, it should come forward and become a regular College group. We added that, for a time, there would be no consequence for the group coming forward to become a College entity. So far it has not done
so.

Some students have suggested that the College hire a private detective to investigate possible fraternity activity among students, others that we consider all 2,000 of you suspects and investigate you all. Neither is consistent with the College’s culture.

Williams has long placed great value on its ban against secret, exclusive societies supported by outside funding. The original decision was
embraced at all levels of the governance structure, including the Board of Trustees, which has subsequently twice re-affirmed that decision. It still stands. The authority for how that decision, like all others, is carried out on campus lies wholly with the administration. No Board member has tried to influence how this issue has been handled, nor has any alumnus outside that small group.

If the Dean’s Office had reason to believe that any individual student was participating in a fraternity, we would certainly investigate, and, if the allegation proved true, that student would be subject to serious disciplinary action. We would be happy to know the name of any such student. Without any, we will not engage in some wild goose chase.

In the end, the most effective deterrent to student involvement with a fraternity is the public opprobrium of fellow students. The Record articles and editorials have rightly raised that. If other student organizations were to publicly reinforce the message that fraternity involvement is outside our community’s standards, so much the better. That certainly is the deeply held conviction of this administration.

Sincerely,

Morton Owen Schapiro and Nancy A. Roseman
President Dean of the College

Comments:

1) Say what you will about the contents of this letter, it is marvelously well-written. Note the use of strong short sentences. Note the lack of passive voice.

2) Note the claim that “We would be happy to know the name of any such student.” I guess that this is a good first step. But this is different, presumably for a reason, from saying, “We implore members of the community with knowledge of these on-going violations to report them to us immediately. Indeed, it is the duty of every student to do so.”

3) The next step for those in the anti-St. Anthony Hall camp is, obviously, to come up with a list of members. How hard can this be? Perhaps a full listing of the entire membership is hard to come by, but certainly a handful of names could be produced. Over to you, Aidan.

4) I am not sure if I like the “wild goose chase” lingo. I wonder if this is Schapiro or Roseman writing. The College has a policy on fraternities. It is the job of the Dean’s Office to implement that policy. You can change the policy (perhaps it is unworkable, perhaps times have changed). You can change the office that implements it. But it seems a bit hypocritical to describe efforts to implement the policy as a “wild goose chase.” Does St. Anthony Hall have to hold a poetry reading on Chapin Beach before the College does anything? At the very least, I worry that the College isn’t trying too hard.

5) This is not the sort of letter that Peter Murphy and Frank Oakley sent out when they crushed the incipient fraternization of some athletic teams in the mid 1990’s. I can’t recall the details (and it might not have been Murphy and/or Oakley), but there certainly was a time when the Dean’s Office came down like the proverbial ton of bricks on students who thought that secret initiation ceremonies were a good way to enhance the Williams experience. Are there any readers out there who remember those events better than I?

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“Phantom” Fraternity

The local media continue to mention the St. Anthony Hall controversy. The latest example is from iBerkshires.com. Note that the authors refers to the “phantom” fraternity, but, of course, the whole problem is that St. Anthony Hall isn’t phantom. It’s real.

I am still looking for a copy of the Administration’s response to College Council on the topic, but the story line moved forward with Dean Roseman’s visit to CC at the end of January. (The Record will, presumably, provide coverage in due course.) The CC Secretary, Jonathan Landsman, is to be congratulated for providing excellent minutes for the meetings. Those for January 28 note that:

The room received Dean Roseman’s following words in perfect silence. “I just wanted to express something to this body that I think is really important for you to understand. . . . I frankly was personally insulted by the letter you sent to me [see minutes, 21 January 2004]. I felt that it was not-very-sublty suggested that I was a liar, wasn’t telling the truth. It not-so-subtly suggested that I was a person of no integrity and can be manipulated by members of dark forces even though I’m not and couldn’t be. If it went on the border, I think it crossed the line of mudslinging and made accusations on no evidence. . . . Morty said in a speech, “The plural of anecdote is not evidence.” In this case, the plural of fiction isn’t fact. . . . It might not have stunk so much if I were some faceless bureaucrat that nobody knew, but I would like to think you know me and Morty better than that. People are always so good at saying, “The Administration.” I always say “Me. That’s me.”

Dean Roseman then opened the floor to questions. A while passed before any ventured to break the silence that had endured during her speech.

In response Federico Sosa’s (treasurer) raising the topic, Roseman addressed the amnesty that she and others empowered to decide such things decided to offer fraternity members. “What Jack Shaw represented was, ‘This is a group of students that Williams College should be proud of. They are the cream of the crop. It’s not a frat like Williams
thinks about’ So Cappy [Catherine Hill, Provost] looked at him and said, ‘So why wouldn’t we want that? If that’s true, we would love to embrace them and stop all this secrecy.’ And I would describe that as calling someone’s bluff,” finished Roseman.

Aaron Wilson (all-campus) asked, “Going forward, would you describe yours and Morty’s position as welcoming more knowledge about the situation?” Roseman answered that she has never had any problem taking disciplinary action against a student who was violating community standards, and said she would do so if she knew of a student who was a member of a frat.

Chin Ho (co-pres) now prodded Roseman to reenact what she had earlier that day done to the officers, to demonstrate why she did not favor an aggressive investigation into fraternities. Singling out Gerry Lindo, who wrote the fraternity letter sent by Council, she conducted an interview of him on fraternities that, though mock, was serious enough in feeling that the room felt its weight. As Roseman prodded Gerry for any information, he fended her off by insisting of ignorance. Dean Roseman summarized the point with, “It’s a pretty horrific experience to put a student in a room with me. . . . When they say they won’t tell me, all I’ve got left is you are not telling me and I am the dean of the
College and something bad is happening. . . . I don’t want to that again and again, for what?”

There more than this in the notes and someone (Aidan?) really ought to determine who won the dueling letters between the CC and the administration. Interested readers should read more — and the CC might consider posting it’s minutes as HTML as well.

But, reading these notes, I certainly got the sense that Dean Roseman is an impressive individual. However, I also got the sense that the members of St. Anthony Hall are safe as safe can be.

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Eph Busybody

In my role as Eph busybody, I occasional provide unsolicited suggestions to people at Williams about how they should do their jobs. Surprisingly enough, my sugegstions are generally met with polite acknowledgements and patient explanations about why something that seems to be such a good idea from the perspective of 15 years ago and 150 miles away might not work that well in practice. One of my favorite topics is “The Mountains” and what a shame it is that students, like us, never learn the words while at Williams (with the exception of the rugby team, perhaps). For the last decade or so, I have been sending a letter on this topic to the incoming JA’s around this time of year. Some years I send it to the incoming co-presidents (wasn’t there a President and Vice President during our era?). Some years I send it to all the new JA’s (the list is often printed in the Record). Some (most) years I am too scatterbrained to send it at all. In any event, here is this year’s version.

To the JA’s for the class of 2007:

At the 1989 Williams graduation ceremonies, then-President Francis Oakley had a problem. Light rain showers, which had been threatening all morning, started mid-way through the event. Thinking that he should speed things along, and realizing that virtually no one knew the words to “The Mountains,” President Oakley proposed that the traditional singing be skipped.

I cry arose from all Ephs present, myself included. Although few knew the words, all wanted to sing the damn song. Sensing rebellion, President Oakley relented and led the assembled graduates and guests through a somewhat soaked rendition of the song that has marked Williams events for more than 100 years.

Similar scenes play themselves out at Williams events around the country. At many of the Williams weddings that you will attend in the future, an attempt, albeit a weak one, will be made to sing “The Mountains.” At reunion events run by the college, “The Mountains” will be sung, generally with the help of handy cards supplied by the Alumni Office. It is obvious that most graduates wish that they knew the words. It is equally obvious than almost all do not.

What we have, as current-President Schapiro can explain better than I, is a collective action problem. Everyone (undergraduates and alumni alike) wishes that everyone knew the words — it would be wonderful to sing “The Mountains” at events ranging from basketball games in the gym to hikes up Pine Cobble to gatherings around the world. But there is no point in me learning the words since, even if I knew them, there would be no one else who did. Since no single individual has an incentive to learn the words, no one bothers to learn them. We are stuck at a sub-optimal equilibrium.

Fortunately, you have the power to fix this. You could learn “The Mountains” together, as a group, during your JA orientation in a few weeks. You could then teach all the First Years during First Days next fall. It will no doubt make for a nice entry bonding experience. All sorts of goofy ideas come to mind. How about a singing contest at the opening dinner, judged by President Schapiro, between the different dorms with first prize being a pizza dinner later in the fall?

The point is that once a tradition like this is started, it will in all likelihood go on forever. And you will be responsible for that. A hundred years from now the campus will look as different from today as today looks from 1903, but, if you seize this opportunity, Williams students and alumni will still be singing “The Mountains”.

Congratulations on being selected as a JA. It is a singular honor and responsibility.

Regards,

Dave Kane ’88

This year, I got a nice response from all concerned. Dean (of the college) Roseman actually arranged for it to be sent to all the incoming JA’s. I also discovered that am introduction to “The Mountains” has been an official part of “First Days” for at least the last two years, with the JA’s making big signs with the words on it and leading the freshmen in a rendition during the first class meeting in Chapin Hall.

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