Currently browsing posts filed under "Faculty"

Follow this category via RSS

← Previous PageNext Page →

Provost Presentation, 1

Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 1.

Although dual y-axis charts are evil, this one provides some useful time series.

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 1.36.43 AM

Like all of Gaul, the last 60 years of applications to Williams can be divided into three parts. First, we have the single sex era, with 1,000 to 2,000 applications and an impressive yield of over 50%. Second, the initial 30 years of co-education, with applications mostly stable between 4,000 and 5,000. Third, the current era, with much higher raw application numbers, stable yield and falling admission rates. Comments:

1) Did Williams really yield around 65% in the mid-1960s? That seems implausible. Williams has been losing out to Harvard/Yale/Princeton for decades. I doubt that the 60s were much different. Perhaps Williams used more early decision? Perhaps there was more information sharing, allowing Williams to reject students who it knew would turn it down?

2) The shown yield rate is highly misleading. Students admitted early decision should not be included. They have no (meaningful) choice so it makes no sense to include them in a yield calculation. (Doing so also makes it harder to compare our yield with our competitors who don’t use early decision.) Yield should be measured only from the regular decision admittees. Doing this leaves our yield closer to 30%.

3) Stacked bar charts are not very helpful, especially with this color scheme. (Who can see the change in class size in the light green at the bottom?) Line graphs would be better. A better design for the same data:

  • Three separate panels, stacked on top of each other, each with the same x-axis. All feature line graphs.
  • The x-axis should be academic years, not class years. We want to know how many people applied to Williams in the fall of 2017. Telling us class year just forces us to do math in our heads.
  • The top panel should be raw applications. This is where the process starts. In addition to the raw numbers, we should have some shading or other indication of major changes like the start of co-education or the first time Common Ap usage was above 500. Even better would be to show multiple line graphs which broke total applications into a couple of different categories, like domestic versus international.
  • The second panel should be line graphs of admitted and enrolled students. Since the y-axis range would be much narrower than panel 1, we could easily see the increase in the size of the college (doubling with co-education and then increasing by another 10% since the 80s). Ideally, this panel would also include the number of students admitted early decision.
  • The third panel would combine the information from the top two to show us line graphs of percentage admitted and percentage yielded.
  • Throughout the three panels, we should see information associated with changes in the process. For example, I have a vague memory of applications rising/falling depending on how specific the supplemental essay was.
Facebooktwitter

Confederation of Deplorables

An anonymous faculty member writes:

My father was a laborer all his life. Our entire home life was shaped by his weekly shift postings: one week, 0700-1600, the next 1600-1200, and the third 1200-0700. My parents grew up and married during the Depression and became solid FDR adherents. So our household was a solid Democratic bastion. And when I came of age, I followed my parents’ lead, registered Democrat, and voted Democrat. And I remain a registered Democrat, perhaps out of familial or working-class-origin loyalty. But, please note, I haven’t voted Democratic in more than 30 years because of the Democrats’ profound leftist lunge and its betrayal of its former constituents, like my parents and me.

I mention this because current party affiliation is not necessarily a reliable indication of one’s political sentiments. I remain a registered Democrat, simply because of my family history. I can’t affiliate myself with RINOs and/or country-club Republicans. I’m a proud Deplorable. Ironically, we owe the detestable HRC for our name. Do you know that there is a small, quiet, but stalwart confederation of Deplorables among Williams faculty members, who not only deplore the rapid (does any other word apply?) Democratic/media attack on President Trump, but who also deplore the radical leftist policies instituted by presidents/deans/administrators of Williams College?

Are there really? I like to consider myself a friendly acquaintance — mostly via e-mail but also in person — of many (most?) of the non-liberal/progressive members of the faculty. I have only met one who thought highly enough of Trump to vote for him.

More importantly, why is this “confederation of Deplorables” so quiet? Many (all?) of them have tenure. Why not speak up? Recall:

With Richard Herrnstein, the late Harvard professor, he [Charles Murray] was about to publish The Bell Curve. There were early warnings that the co-authors would come in for a rough time of it. Murray was in the Herrnstein home, having a nightcap. And he said to the professor, “Exactly why are we doing this anyway?” Herrnstein recalled the day he got tenure, and how happy he was, thinking what it meant: For the rest of his life, he was free to do the work he loved at a place he loved. “I said to myself, there has to be a catch. And I figured out what it was: You have to tell the truth.”

Indeed.

Facebooktwitter

Provost Presentation at Alumni Leadership Weekend

Provost Dukes Love kindly shared the slides (pdf) from the presentation he gave on Saturday May 5 to the muckety-mucks at the Alumni Leadership event. Thanks! Dukes is EphBlog’s favorite member of the Williams Administration because he is so committed to transparency, as every real academic should be. (Provost Will Dudley ’89, on the other hand, refused to share his presentations from similar events.)

Lots of interesting material, like this chart:

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.16.19 PM

Worth spending a few days going through in detail?

Facebooktwitter

Faculty Political Diversity, 3

Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 3.

Nicholas Goldrosen ’20 reported in January for the Record that:

Over the course of 2017, faculty and staff employed by the College contributed a total of $20,325.22 to candidates and committees in federal elections, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosures. All of these contributions went to Democratic or Democrat-leaning candidates or committees. The vast majority of contributions were modest, and individuals often made multiple contributions over the course of the year.

In 2017, 76 individuals who listed their employers as “Williams College” or some subsidiary – and did not list their occupations as “student” – made a total of 1240 contributions in federal elections. Of the 76 people who made contributions, 43 were members of the faculty and 33 were employed as staff members.

Comments:

1) Goldrosen fails to quote a single person in this story. Why? Reporting 101 is: Go out and talk to people and tell your readers what they say. There are faculty who are experts in US politics. Ask them questions! There are students involved in political campaigns and fund-raising. Interview them!

2) I asked Goldrosen to share the data with us. He never responded to my e-mail. Advice to our readers: Always respond to (non-spam) e-mails. The more people you network with, the better your career will be.

3) The FEC data is public. Should I spend sometime going through it?

Facebooktwitter

Faculty Political Diversity, 2

Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 2.

Recall our previous discussions about which Williams professors might be considered to be on the non-left-wing side of the faculty as a whole. Of those candidates, here are the ones that appear in Langbert’s data:

  
  name       sex   rank      dob        field       distance registration   age
                                      
1 Miller     M     Associate REDACTED   Mathematics    0.800 R             44.0
2 Paul       M     Professor REDACTED   Political      1.90  NP            50.0
3 McAllister M     Professor REDACTED   Political      2.20  NP            54.0
4 Kirby      M     Professor REDACTED   Psychology     1.90  NP            55.0
5 Marcus     M     Professor REDACTED   Political      0.400 D             75.0
6 Jackall    M     Professor NA         Sociology     NA     NR            NA  
7 Lewis      M     Professor NA         Art           NA     R             NA  
8 Strauch    M     Associate NA         Physics       NA     NR            NA  

UPDATE: See below.

Mathematics Professor Steve Miller is the only registered Republican on the Williams faculty. He is the “1” in the 132:1 ratio that Langbert reports.

Having only one Republican professor at Williams is about as bad as an alternate reality in which Williams had only one African-American professor. I am comfortable with people claiming that neither situation is a concern because Williams faculty teach in an unbiased fashion: you can’t tell from their lectures or their grading what their politics or race are. I am also comfortable with people claiming that both situations are a matter of great concern that the College should work to fix. I am uncomfortable with the current Williams view: We desperately need to increase racial diversity and we don’t need to worry about political diversity.

dcat asks what we should do. That is easy!

Williams could have the exact same set of policies about faculty political diversity as it has about faculty racial diversity. For example, Williams could keep track of (and report) on political diversity in the same way that it does racial diversity. It could insist that departments go out of their way to advertise positions in ways likely to come to the attention of politically diverse candidates. It could require (or strongly urge) departments — as it now does — to have at least one fly-out candidate who helps with political diversity. It could create positions for which the hiring pool is much more likely to be politically diverse. And so on.

This won’t make Williams 50/50 anytime soon, but it would quickly lead to a Williams with 10+ republican/libertarian/conservative faculty members, thereby (one hopes!) creating a very different political environment on campus.

UPDATE: I redacted birthdays by request. Although birthdays are public information (else how did Langbert find them), we like to stay on good terms with our faculty readers! Separately, Michael Lewis reports to EphBlog that he is a registered Republican in Williamstown. So, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans among the Williams faculty is 66:1. EphBlog gets results!

UPDATE II: Professor Miller writes:

I’ve held many political affiliations over the years, often due to what party’s primary I want to vote in. I was a registered Democrat in MA for awhile until the Affordable Care Act was passed. I view myself as a Conservative Libertarian.

Thanks for the clarification!

Facebooktwitter

Faculty Political Diversity, 1

Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 1.

Langbert writes:

In this article I offer new evidence about something readers of Academic Questions already know: The political registration of full-time, Ph.D.-holding professors in top-tier liberal arts colleges is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Key table:

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 12.48.49 PM

Am I truly a right-wing nutjob for wanting Williams to have more than a single Republican faculty member? I hope not!

The data is very interesting, not least because it includes date of birth and distance (or residence) from Williams. Here are the youngest and oldest faculty:

   name      sex   rank      dob        field       distance registration   age
                                      
 1 Friedman  F     Professor 1987-12-25 Language       0.900 D             30.0
 2 Heggeseth F     Assistant 1986-05-23 Mathematics    2.00  D             31.0
 3 Smalarz   F     Professor 1986-08-08 Psychology     0.400 D             31.0
 4 Simko     F     Assistant 1984-09-21 Sociology      0.900 D             33.0
 5 Leight    F     Assistant 1984-11-15 Economics      0.200 NP            33.0
 6 Phelan    M     Assistant 1984-12-10 Economics      0.400 NP            33.0
 7 Blackwood F     Assistant 1984-06-08 Mathematics    0.600 D             33.0
 8 Johnson   M     Professor 1937-05-22 Art           11.4   D             80.0
 9 Graver    F     Professor 1936-08-17 English        1.30  D             81.0
10 Beaver    M     Professor 1936-07-16 History        0.400 NP            81.0
11 Dew       M     Professor 1937-05-01 History        1.00  D             81.0

Immediately, we see some problems with the data. Friedman and Smalarz were not professors at such a young age. In fact, (Nicole) Friedman does not really belong in the data set at all because she was not tenure-track. I have reported these issues to Langbert. Overall, however, the data looks very good to me. Do other people see any problems?

Here are the professors that live furthest away:

  name     sex   rank      dob        field     distance registration   age
                                  
1 Pye      M     Professor 1953-09-06 English       47.0 D             64.0
2 Merrill  F     Professor 1963-12-02 History       58.3 D             54.0
3 Ephraim  F     Assistant 1978-12-03 Political     69.8 D             39.0
4 Campbell F     Assistant 1981-03-06 Music        132   NP            37.0
5 Limon    M     Professor 1951-08-29 English      159   D             66.0

Do John Limon and Corrina Cambell really live more than 100 miles away? I have my doubts. Also note that some other professors (e.g., Singham) who I think live in different states are shown as living near by. So, I am not sure I would trust the distance data that much.

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 5.10.09 PM

None of us are concerned with students being “brainwashed” — although never forget the saga of Jennifer Kling ’98. The issue is political diversity. If racial diversity is important for the faculty, then why isn’t political diversity?

Facebooktwitter

Charismatic Nerd Looks for Fun Times

From Professor Phoebe Cohen:

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 3.01.19 PM

Who will #meToo come for next?

If Cohen were seriously concerned about such behavior, shouldn’t she focus more on her Williams colleagues some (many?) of whom were seeking sex with their students in the not-so-distant past? Cohen, now tenured, is well-placed to call out such “super-sketchy behavior.” If she declines to do so, how seriously should we take her condemnation of Feynman?

UPDATE: BH’s comments remind me that not everyone follows this topic as closely as we do. From October:

At least three current students have reported to EphBlog that professors in a for-now-unnamed department warn current students they advise to either a) not take a course and/or b) distance themselves from one particular professor due to a number of sexual harassment complaints, including “coming onto” students during office hours and attempting to engage in other inappropriate behavior. Despite the complaints, which have come at least since the 2013-2014 academic year, this professor is still currently in the employment of the College and is teaching a class this semester. Notably, this professor only conducts class on a limited number of days a week when they are allowed on campus, a measure enacted since the 2014-2015 academic year in response to the complaints. At least for the last year, this professor has not held office hours for their classes.

Note that this post was not written by me.

Facebooktwitter

Professor Shawn Rosenheim on Best College, 3

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

I don’t know whether my students had SAT scores of 600, 700 or 800. I never had reason to look. I do know that, for myself and many of my colleagues, SHSS has reaffirmed our sense of why teaching matters.

Kane would do well to pause before prescribing further aggressive changes to admissions policies. I welcome him to sit in on any of my courses, and to see for himself whether those changes would damage or improve the college that we both love.

EphBlog loves nothing more than to educate the Williams faculty. If Rosenheim really can’t tell the difference between students who scored 600 or 800 on the verbal SAT, then he is fooling himself. Consider these three graduates from the class of 2017.

Ariel Chu, Highest Honors in English and Magna Cum Laude
Apurva Tandon, Highest Honors in English
Chelsea Rose Thomeer, English, Highest Honors and Magna Cum Laude

You can be (almost) certain that all three scored very highly on the verbal SAT because it is, for most practical purposes, impossible to do as well as Chu/Tandon/Thomeer have done without high verbal fluency, precisely what the SAT measures so well. If you don’t have that ability by 17 — if you score, say, 600 on the verbal SAT — there is little/nothing that Williams can do that will allow you to catch up with your classmates.

There were 62 English majors in the class of 2017. Imagine that the Williams English Department sat down and grouped them into quintiles, looking not just at their simple class ranks, but at their grades in English courses, the quality of their papers, the insight from their comments in class. The top quintile (top 12) would consist (almost?) solely of students with SAT verbals scores of 700+, perhaps even 750+. In the bottom quintile, we would have a similar over-representation of students with verbal scores below 700, even below 600.

Of course, none of these facts mean that Rosenheim or his colleagues should teach or grade any differently. When I grade a paper, I don’t care what a students SAT score was. (All the more so because I grade anonymously.) But, to the extent that Rosenheim doesn’t really understand the connection between SAT score and performance in his classes, I am happy to educate him.

Facebooktwitter

Professor Shawn Rosenheim on Best College, 2

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

For instance: I’ve taught Moby Dick a dozen times as part of a 300-level English course. For the last three years, I’ve also taught the book in the Summer Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS) program. Without question, the SHSS classes have been better – in fact, they have been some of the most serious and electric courses that I’ve had the privilege to teach. My pre-frosh brought unusual guts and heart, as well as brains, to their work – at times challenging my assumptions, at others finding unexpected resonances between their personal histories and Melville’s. Their diversity of experience was a fundamental resource for what we learned.

What is wrong with the English Department? I am sure that Rosenheim’s SHSS classes are wonderful. Williams pre-frosh are smart and excited. But then he, and the rest of the English Department, takes those same students — and students chosen using the same procedure — and turn them into, what, exactly? Surly malcontents? Drunken layabouts? One purpose of studying English at Williams is to get better at understanding novels like Moby Dick, better at analysis, better at discussion, better at writing. How can 2 to 3 years of English classes at Williams create students who are worse at discussing great novels than a bunch of 18 year-olds are? Possibilities:

1) Rosenheim is blowing smoke. If an outside observer looked at videos of the two classes, she would rate the quality of class discussion as higher in the 300-level class.

2) Smart students don’t major in English. All the smartest students in SHSS, the ones who make Rosenheim’s class so wonderful, major in topics like math and philosophy. They never take 300-level English classes.

3) English majors are as smart as non-English majors (or at least as smart as SHSS students) but 2-3 years at Williams (or in the English Department?) have soured them on the academic enterprise more broadly, and/or on class discussion specifically. As juniors/seniors, they know more about analyzing novels than the SHSS students, but they decline to speak up in class.

4) The PC environment of Williams (or the English Department?) stifles class discussion. No one is comfortable saying what they really think, at least about controversial topics, and no one wants to offend a fellow Eph.

5) SHSS students are not afraid to speak openly, mainly because they are still innocent of the PC landmines and/or because their very lack of diversity — all are URM and/or low income — means that they don’t need to worry about PC niceties.

I don’t know which of these explanations, if any, is correct. What do readers think?

Facebooktwitter

Professor Shawn Rosenheim on Best College, 1

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

In his op-ed “What Does It Mean to be the Best?” (Sept. 20, 2017), David Kane ’88 is right to wonder about how to make the College the best that it can be. But his account of what we mean by “best,” and the changes he recommends to achieve that – such as reducing the pursuit of under-represented minority and low-income students – are based on a dangerously abstract notion of how learning actually takes place.

Shouldn’t English professors be better at reading comprehension? How can he plausibly claim that I am in favor of “reducing the pursuit of under-represented minority and low-income students?” I wrote:

Fourth, we need to recruit more seriously. The number of Tyng Scholarships should be increased and their use should be focused on the most desirable applicants, almost all of whom will be African-American. Rather than offering them for incoming first-years, we should use the Summer Science Program and Summer Humanities and Social Sciences Program to target high quality poor and URM high school juniors, potential applicants that we currently lose to HYPS. Senior faculty at the College should devote as much effort to attracting excellent students as our coaches do to recruiting excellent student-athletes.

I specifically urge Williams to spend more money and time on recruiting well-qualified under-represented minority and low-income students. I want more “pursuit,” not less. More effort. More money. More time.

How can Rosenheim misread me so blatantly? My suspicion is that anytime you say anything inconsistent with the current Williams godhead — Diversity Über Alles — the Eph bien pensants assume that you are the devil. Since my proposed changes in admission would lead to fewer African-American students, it is inconceivable to Rosenheim that I am in favor of increased efforts to recruit the high quality African-American students we currently lose to Harvard.

Other hypotheses for Rosenheim’s error?

Facebooktwitter

BSO as Economic Farce

EphBlog loves Economics Professor Steve Sheppard something fierce, but corporatist nonsense like this requires rebuttal.

More than $260 million statewide, including $103 million in Berkshire County.

That’s the overall economic impact of the Boston Symphony’s summer season at Tanglewood and its three-season schedule in Boston, including the Boston Pops.

The big numbers come from an independent study by Williams College professor of economics Stephen Sheppard that depicts the BSO as “a key economic force” in western and eastern Massachusetts.

This is not just nonsense, it is Nonsense on Stata.

1) Sheppard’s study is in no meaningful way “independent.” Doesn’t Eagle reporter Clarence Fanto have a clue? The BSO gives money to Sheppard/Williams and, in return, gets a report. The BSO is the customer and it gets what it pays for. Moreover, Sheppard has been producing reports like this for the BSO for more than a decade. Do you really think if his last report (pdf) had come up with the wrong answer that BSO would have hired him again? Ha!

2) This is not to say that Sheppard is a “hired gun” who will say whatever his paymasters demand. No! Sheppard is an excellent (and honest!) economist, one who really believes that the BSO magically generates phenomenal wealth. And that is why BSO hires him and not some other, more skeptical, economist.

3) I am happy to spend several days going through the details of why this analysis is nonsense, if readers are interested. Short version: This is a “promotional study,” just like the ones used to justify public subsidies for sports stadiums. See this report from Brookings about why stadiums are a boondoggle.

4) Never forget to look, not just at what is seen, but at what is unseen. The policy issue is: Should the state of Massachusetts (or the town of Lennox or a rich philanthropist) give $10 million more to BSO or, instead, give $10 million to some other non-profit, like the basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield? We need to compare the jobs (or whatever) generated by spending on the BSO with the jobs (or whatever) generated by devoting the same quantity of resources to something else. The Eagle, either out of economic ignorance or local cheer-leading, fails to even ask the appropriate question.

Facebooktwitter

President Maud Mandel, 10

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 10, our last day of this series.

What do we know (or guess) about Mandel’s politics? From The Daily Herald:

Dean of the College Maud Mandel donated $1,000 to Clinton. When asked why she chose to donate, Mandel said, “I gave that donation as a private citizen,” citing that as dean of the college, she did not feel it would be appropriate to comment on her donation.

Good stuff!

1) Hope she follows the same policy at Williams. A good Williams president has many things to say about Williams and some things to say about higher education. The less time she spends opining on politics, the better. Or do readers miss Adam Falk spouting off about immigration or the alt-right?

2) I don’t care that Mandel is a Clinton supporter. No (?) president of an elite college — or plausible applicant to be one — voted for Trump.

3) What are Mandel’s views on political diversity, or the lack-there-of, at Williams? My hope is that we will be leaving behind the Falk era of speaker-banning. There are some encouraging hints, albeit sotto voce, from the Administration, despite this nonsense from President Majumder in January. Mandel might send a useful signal on this dimension by joining Heterodox Academy, joining current Williams faculty members Michael Lewis, Robert Jackall and Eric Knibbs.

4) Can we connect Mandel’s scholarly work on Jews/Muslims in France to her likely views about running Williams? I don’t know. Studying closely the rise of modern antisemitism in France seems a naturally “conservative” topic — I bet that many (most?) French Jews wish there had been a lot less immigration to France in the last 50 years! — but Mandel seems to have been on the “liberal” side in the associated academic debates. Any historians among our readers?

Facebooktwitter

President Maud Mandel, 9

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 9.

Her latest book is Muslims and Jews in France: History of a Conflict. From a review:

In view of the growing number of Muslim anti-Semitic occurrences in France culminating in anti-Jewish terrorist attacks, this historical analysis of Muslim-Jewish relations in France during the twentieth century is a most timely contribution. In her examination of this dynamic, Maud S. Mandel pays attention to the developing social, economic, cultural, and political status of Muslims and Jews in France, on the background of France’s changing foreign and domestic policies—especially as related to France’s colonial position in North Africa—and the impact of the creation of the State of Israel, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Palestinian nation. She shows how these internal and external changes impact Muslim-Jewish relations in France. The analysis makes it clear how the different history of both groups in France, and especially the impact of French Colonial and post-Colonial policies, had a lasting effect on both communities and their relations with each other.

I have not read the book and am no historian, but color me suspicious about Mandel’s underlying thesis. From an interview:

What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?
As in all historical projects, my goal is to complicate simplistic understandings of the problem before us, to challenge notions of inevitability, to force us to question how and why the past took the shape that it did, and to push against monocausal explanations. This approach has pointed me to the diversity of socio-religious relationships between Muslims and Jews in France; conflict is not the only–or even the primary–way of understanding these relationships. This approach has also directed me away from conceptualizing Muslim-Jewish relations in France as arising inevitably from conflict in the Middle East. Rather, I argue that where conflict does exist, its origins and explanation are as much about France and French history as they are about Middle Eastern conflict.

Mandel suggests that French colonialism and other policies plays an important role in causing Muslim antisemitism in France today. That seems suspect to me. (And perhaps this highlights the difference between how historians (N = 1) and statisticians (N > 1) see the world.) If Mandel is right, then another European country, without France’s history of colonialism and Middle East meddling, would see very different relations between Jews and Muslims. That is a testable claim! If Mandel is right, then there should be much less Muslim antisemitism in a country like Sweden, which never had colonies and plays no role in the Middle East. And, yet, this is not true. Muslim antisemitism is as much (more?) of a problem in Sweden than it is in France.

Facebooktwitter

President Maud Mandel, 8

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 8.

One more comment from the 2014 The Brown Daily Herald article:

Mandel is concerned about the decreasing number of undergraduates concentrating in the humanities, a trend she has personally witnessed at Brown, she told The Herald. As dean of the College, Mandel will be poised to make clear to students and parents that the humanities teach valuable skills, she said, adding that tackling the problem also “has to do with admissions and the type of students we want to bring to Brown.”

I can find no evidence that Mandel worked on this topic at Brown, or that any work she did was successful. Any readers with inside information? Comments:

1) I dislike these conversations, not least because people (not Mandel!) are often sloppy in the terms they use, worrying about the decline in the “liberal arts” (when, in fact, everything taught at Williams is part of the liberal arts, by definition, since we are a “liberal arts college”) when what they really care about are lower enrollments in “humanities,” as in this quote. It is certainly true that many professors at Williams worry about increases in Div III enrollments/majors at the expense of Div I.

2) In 50 years, these sorts of worries will seem as absurd and parochial as the worries 50 years ago about declining enrollment in Latin and Greek. That was a big deal, back in the day. But the decline didn’t stop and couldn’t (really) have been stopped. The same is true of the move away from, say, English and toward Stats/CS.

3) Somewhat contrary to 2), there has not been much (any?) decline in humanities majors at Williams:

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 11.08.04 AM

Division I majors have gone down some but not much. Instead, Div III majors have sky-rocketed. Big picture: There are as many History majors as before, but more of those History majors are adding a double major in computer science. Is that bad?

4) Of course, a dramatic increase in majors almost certainly means a dramatic increase in course enrollments. I haven’t found any data, but it would hardly be surprising of the total percentage of humanities course enrollments at Williams has gone from 30% to 20%. If so, big deal! Students should take classes in what they want.

5) Don’t the faculty deserve lots of the blame for the decline in student interest in the humanities? Let’s focus on Mandel’s own field, history, and look at the courses on offer this spring at Williams. Much of this is good stuff. Who could complain about surveys of Modern China, Medieval England or Europe in Twentieth Century? Not me! I also have no problems with courses on more narrow topics. Indeed, classes on Witchcraft, Panics and The Suburbs are all almost certainly excellent, and not just because they are taught by some of the best professors in the department. But notice what is missing: No more courses on war (now that Jim Wood has retired). No courses on diplomatic history (RIP Russ Bostert). No courses in the sort of mainstream US history topics — Revolutionary Period, Civil War — which would interest scores of students.

6) Your likely success when applying to elite schools like Williams is mostly baked in, a function of your high school grades and test scores. But, on the margin, I bet that expressing a strong interest in the humanities might be helpful for male applicants. (Williams so wants to get to gender parity in STEM fields that female applicants should shade their application in that direction, if possible.) If Mandel wants to increase enrollment in the humanities, she may very well tell admissions to admit more students with a demonstrated interest in the humanities.

PS. Thanks to Jim Reische for forwarding this more extensive history of Williams majors (pdf). Worth a detailed review?

Facebooktwitter

A Heads-Up …

Louis+XIV+(r.+1643-1715)+Personal+rule+began+in+1661+with+the+death+of+Cardinal+Mazarin.+L+État,+c+est+moi+(the+state+is+me)

It must have been difficult for the Bourbons to go from Louis XIV The Sun King and cited expounder of “L’État c’est Moi” to devolve to Louis XVI The Restorer of French Liberty who died by the guillotine as plain old Louis Capet.

I think Williams Professor Susan Dunn‘s book The Deaths of Louis XVI and her course Sister Revolutions in France and America would be interesting to read and take during this time when an American President can equate the raid on his lawyer to an attack on America.

The Bourbon timeline from XIV to XVI was 149  years.  How quickly things may work in our time and without the guillotine.

Facebooktwitter

President Maud Mandel, 7

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 7.

The 2014 article from The Brown Daily Herald reported that:

Mandel said, she is particularly interested in the international impact students can make.

Williams should increase the quota on international students. Consider the distribution of students at Brown in 2016-2017 (pdf):

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 6.10.10 PM

1) Looking at first year students, Brown is at 11% international. Woo-Hoo! If Mandel moves Williams to 11% (from our current 7%, pdf), she will instantly be a better president than Falk.

2) I like the way Brown makes extensive use of “Two or more races, non-Hispanic” and “Race and/or ethnicity unknown.” More than 11% of the student body falls into these categories. I always felt that Williams tried “too hard” to force every student into a specific racial box. (For many years, Williams had exactly zero students in the unknown box. Latest data shows us with 5% in that box and 5% in the “Two or more” box, which matches pretty closely with Brown. So, I guess my hope is that Williams goes even further in this direction, perhaps by subtly signally to Asian/white applicants that checking these other boxes is helpful.)

3) Brown is 6.5% African-American. Nice discipline! (Williams is at 9.5%.) Does Brown — does Dean Mandel — hate black kids? No! But they probably do a much better job of not admitting as many poorly qualified (SAT < 1300, AR < 4) applicants as Williams does. (The sad truth of elite college admissions is that HYPS hoover up all the African-American applicant with elite credentials (about 2%) and then all the applicants who would be good fits at schools like Brown and Williams. This leaves Williams/Brown with a tough choice. They can either be disciplined in admissions --- using affirmative action but not too much --- or they can do that and also accept many applicants who are almost certain to struggle academically. I hope that Williams moves in the Brown direction on this dimension.

Facebooktwitter

President Maud Mandel, 6

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 6.

Mandel became Dean at Brown in July 2014. We know how her achievements in that role over the subsequent four years are described today, but how did she think about her goals at the start?

Mandel named her long-term experience at and consequent personal connection to Brown as one of three factors that drove her interest in the dean of the College position since it first became available. The vision of the current administration and the proliferation of massive open online courses, which has challenged traditional ideas about what universities can offer students, also drew her in, Mandel said.

This wording confuses me. Was Brown/Mandel pro-mooc or anti-mooc? Brown started participating in Coursera in 2013 and now has a handful of classes up at EdX. But it seems less committed to on-line learning than most big schools. I assume that Williams will continue down its current path of no-Moocs and that Mandel agrees with that strategy.

Mandel witnessed changes to the advising program under Bergeron and said she hopes to expand on those reforms. … Advising, which [Brown President] Paxson called Mandel’s “personal priority” in her email, must address all the opportunities available to Brown students, Mandel said — a goal she describes as “advising the whole student.”

“We want students who come to Brown to feel like they got an experience here that’s unique and important that would not be available to them at other places,” Mandel said, with advising a vehicle to achieve that goal.

Good stuff. Williams could do a much better job with advising. Start with an on-line resource, like the old Willipedia, which features the answers to the 100 most commonly asked question.

Mandel will also confront the issue of grade inflation, which was discussed during the selection process, she told The Herald. “President Paxson has made clear that one of the initiatives of the dean of the College will be to address grade inflation.”

Did Mandel do anything about grade inflation at Brown? Not that I can see. I hope she tackles the issue at Williams. Start with greater transparency and a student/faculty committee.

Mandel will have a leading role in implementing the components of the University’s strategic plan that focus on strengthening undergraduate education, according to the press release.

Big picture, it is tough for an outsider to provide a meaningful score card which compares Mandel’s plans in 2014 to her accomplishments in 2018. Moreover, a good Dean takes her lead from the President. Perhaps Paxson wanted her to focus on items like “diversity and inclusion” instead of grade inflation.

Any Brown-insiders among our readership?

Facebooktwitter

President Maud Mandel, 5

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 5.

EphBlog loves stories about mothers and their daughters. From The New York Times in 2009:

Like the Obamas’ new domestic arrangement, whereby Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama’s 71-year-old mother, will become a third head of household and the primary caregiver for two children born to two high-achieving parents, the linchpin of the Baker-Roby household is a grandmother. Theirs is an old-fashioned scenario that fell out of style as Americans drifted to the hermetically sealed nuclear family. Since the early part of the last century, academics have noted the waning of this arrangement in the United States, because of increased mobility, smaller families and even Freudian attitudes, rampant at midcentury, that described “too close” adult maternal ties as unhealthy.

It is a choice, however, that is cycling back into favor. . . .

And it looks as if one particular family relationship — that of adult daughters with their mothers — may be entering a period of more than just détente, as veterans of the women’s movement endeavor to help their own daughters achieve the work-life balance that may have eluded them.

Ruth Mandel is the director of the Eagleton Institute for Politics at Rutgers University, and former head of the Center for American Women and Politics there. One of her assignments in her course on women’s memoirs was to ask students to write autobiographies. “I was struck by how many would say their mothers were their best friends,” Dr. Mandel said. “I don’t know that they would have said that in my generation.”

Dr. Mandel’s mother, an Austrian Jewish refugee, worked reluctantly, Dr. Mandel said. “She wasn’t raised for it and her great dream in life was to stay home.” Conversely, Dr. Mandel’s daughter, Maud, is more like her: a professor.

Twice in the recent past, when Maud’s research required temporary residence in Paris, mother and daughter lived together, with Dr. Mandel maintaining daily e-mail and Skype contact with her office while caring for Maud Mandel’s two young children (Maud is a professor of history and Judaic studies at Brown and her husband, Steve Simon, runs an online business that allowed only intermittent time in Paris).

O.K., so a stint in Paris is not exactly a hardship, but it revealed to mother and daughter that theirs was a strong partnership. “It was wonderful to have time together again,” Maud said, “and also because my mother’s life was so complicated as she juggled her intense commitment to her work with her new role as primary caregiver to her grandchildren, I was both grateful and deeply touched.”

Good stuff. A healthy relationship with one’s family is a good sign in a Williams president.

As Dr. Mandel pointed out, “Working daughters need their mothers.”

So say we all. Recall EphBlog’s key advice to young men: Marry a woman smart enough to have a professional career and live in the same city as your mother-in-law.

Facebooktwitter

President Maud Mandel, 4

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 4.

What might President Mandel bring to Williams from Brown? My favorite candidate is their open curriculum.

In 1850, Brown’s fourth president, Francis Wayland, argued that students should have greater freedom in pursuing a higher education, so that each would be able to “study what he chose, all that he chose, and nothing but what he chose.” A century later, this vision became the basis for a new approach to general education at Brown: the open curriculum.

Williams should copy Brown. There should only be two academic requirements: 32 courses and a major. Forcing students to take courses they don’t want to take accomplishes nothing.

How might Mandel accomplish this?

First, appoint a committee, led by (and made up of) people who share this view. Williams makes major changes via committees and this would be no exception.

Second, guide the committee toward making two recommendations: a) All extra academic requirements — three classes in each division, DPE, writing and quantitive courses — should sunset after five years. The faculty could re-instate them (or different requirements) in 2023, but doing so would require new votes. b) Randomly select 25% of the class of 2022 to be exempt from the extra requirements. These students would, obviously, be able to take whatever classes they want, including having the option of meeting the standard requirements. But they would also have the option not to.

The great benefit of such an experiment is that it would demonstrate clearly the effect, if any, of the requirements. Does the writing requirement make students better writers? Does the DPE requirement make them more aware of the importance of diversity? If these requirements have any effect, then they might be worth keeping. But I doubt that they do. More importantly, it is an empirical question that the College should investigate.

In 5 years, the College would be well-placed to revisit these requirements and decide which ones, if any, should be kept. Of course, even better would be to just get rid of them quickly, but I doubt that will happen. There are too many faculty members who think, incorrectly, that they are doing students a favor by restricting their course options. If Mandel wants to move more toward an open curriculum like Brown’s — and I hope she does — she has much work to do.

Facebooktwitter

President Maud Mandel, 3

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 3.

From the College’s news release:

As dean at Brown, Mandel has been deeply involved in efforts to advance diversity and inclusion, including promoting programs to foster retention for historically underrepresented students in the STEM fields. She also led a collaborative process with students and staff to open the First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center (FLi Center), the first center at any Ivy League school to be dedicated to first-generation students.

A strong proponent of the liberal arts, Mandel established the Brown Learning Collaborative, aimed at strengthening student learning in the core competencies of a liberal arts education, including writing, reading, research, data analysis, problem-solving and public speaking.

Most of the news release is the sort of fluff that we would expect in such an announcement. Mandel is wonderful! Williams is wonderful! We will all be even more wonderful together! The above paragraphs are the only substance. Possibilities:

1) Jim Reische is filling space with whatever material he has at hand. Those activities were part of Mandel’s CV, or at least the package that search firm Spencer Stuart prepared for her as they shopped her around the presidential market. But they aren’t, really, important to her or to the Williams search committee that selected her. They tell us little/nothing about what to expect over the next few years.

2) These achievements were among the primary reasons that the search committee selected Mandel. They felt that Williams was not doing nearly enough about problems associated with URM under-representation in STEM (and/or the other items) and wanted a president who would make tackling them her highest priority.

3) These projects were truly important to Mandel. She wanted the job as dean precisely because she saw certain problems at Brown. She identified and fought for these improvements. Since every school, including Williams, can do better along these dimensions, these will be her highest priorities as Williams president.

My guess is that 2) is not true. Virtually every dean/provost at every elite college/university can point to similar projects/achievements. Mandel’s tenure as Dean is completely typical in that regard. So, it is unlikely that these played a meaningful role in her selection. (I would feel otherwise if she had done something unusual and/or if the search committee signaled us more clearly. For example, if Mandel had come from Harvey Mudd it might have been because the search committee wanted Williams to create an engineering major.)

I don’t have a sense of how much Mandel truly cared about these projects at Brown — I am sure she was in favor, but were they the source of her passion for the job? — or how much of these she will bring to Williams.

What do readers think?

Facebooktwitter

President Maud Mandel, 2

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 2.

There is no doubt that Mandel is highly qualified (CV) to be the president of Williams. Traditionally, elite colleges require two characteristics in presidential candidates: academic success (i.e., being a tenured professor) and administrator experience. The vast majority of NESCAC presidents have had such a background, including at least the last 5 Williams presidents. (Jack Sawyer ’39, with no administrative experience, is an interesting exception to this rule.) Occasionally, an elite liberal arts college will appoint someone who is not a tenured academic, like Barry Mills at Bowdoin, but such cases seem increasingly rare.

Mandel is a tenured professor and has spent the last 4 years as Dean of the College at Brown. Check and check!

Speaking very roughly, Maud probably does better on the academic dimension than she does on the administrative. Tenure at Brown is impressive! The last few Williams presidents have had less imposing academic pedigrees than that. But Dean of the College is generally viewed as less useful preparation for the presidency than Dean of the Faculty or Provost. So, net-net, Maud has about the typical background for a NESCAC president.

Side note: There is no better example of former President Morty Schapio’s menschness than his decision to transform Carl Vogt’s ’58 interim one-year presidency into an official Williams presidency. This is why Maud is officially the 18th president rather than the 17th. Vogt’s presidency should not really be counted, just as other interim presidents (Hewitt, Wagner and Majumder) are not counted. Vogt had no academic background, but I don’t count him as part of my “last 5 Williams presidents” claim above since he was not selected as a permanent president.

Facebooktwitter

President Maud Mandel, 1

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 1.

Start with the acknowledgments from her 2014 book Muslims and Jews in France: History of a Conflict:

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 8.38.24 AM

Beautiful stuff. How could we not like Mandel after reading such obviously heart-felt prose?

The modernists among our readers will insist that we have it all backwards, that we should start with Mandel’s CV, the dry listing of her professional accomplishments. I disagree. Although a stable marriage and loving family are not a requirement to be the president of Williams, they are a very good sign of character, judgment and stability. After our experience with President Working-on-Wife-Number-3, it is nice to know that Mandel will not be concerned with the dating scene in Williamstown.

Facebooktwitter

Williams Professors to Discuss Racial Differences in IQ

Harvard genetics professor David Reiche‘s op-ed and interview in the New York Times is making waves.

Williams professor Phoebe Cohen tweets:

Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 12.40.21 PM

EphBlog is here to help! The key issue with Reich is that he believes that there are important genetic differences between human population groups.

It is likely that a few stereotypes will be validated by findings from genetics — even if it is also certain that a great majority will be disproved. … So how should we handle the eventuality that for a few traits, average differences among populations arising from genetics will be discovered? I do not think that the right approach is to pretend that scientific research has shown there can be no meaningful average genetic differences among human populations, because that message is contradicted by scientific facts. … Given that all genetically determined traits differ somewhat among populations, we should expect that there will be differences in the average effects, including in traits like behavior.

I suspect that this is not a point of view that Cohen has come across that often among her Ph.D. peer group. But she should get out more! Indeed, there are professors now at Williams who have published along these lines. Start with economics professor Quamrul Ashraf. Consider his paper, “The “Out of Africa” Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development”:

This research advances and empirically establishes the hypothesis that, in the course of the prehistoric exodus of Homo sapiens out of Africa, variation in migratory distance to various settlements across the globe affected genetic diversity and has had a persistent hump-shaped effect on comparative economic development, reflecting the trade-off between the beneficial and the detrimental effects of diversity on productivity.

Key message is that one of the reasons Peru is poor and Japan is rich is that the genetics of Peruvians differs from the genetics of Japanese in ways that influence economic growth. This is not a popular opinion in the academy and I am occasionally surprised by the lack of controversy at Williams about Ashraf’s extensive (and impressive!) research effort along these lines.

Psychology professor Nate Kornell is almost certainly a alt-right fellow traveler when it comes to the topic of the reality of IQ and its genetic component. His puckish side comes out when he likes tweets like this which highlight the almost religious nature of the opposition to Reich.

Modest Proposal: Professors Cohen, Ashraf and Kornell should organize a panel at Williams to discuss Reich’s views about the genetics of racial differences. (EphBlog has covered this topic before.) Williams is an college, not a madrassa, so an open-minded professor like Cohen has nothing to fear from a discussion about the views of a scholar from Harvard . . . right?

Facebooktwitter

Nike Camp with Enrichment Classes

One of the great benefits of tenure is that Professor Phoebe Cohen can now tell us what she really thinks . . .

“Nike Camp with enrichment classes” is a quote from Professor Shanks.

Facebooktwitter

KC Johnson on Safety Dance

Former Williams professor KC Johnson, co-author (with Stuart Taylor) of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities, sent in this analysis (doc) of the latest filings in the Safety Dance sexual assault case:

There have been some new filings in the Title IX/due process lawsuit against Williams. I’ve summarized the case previously, so won’t repeat what I wrote. Unique among the 200 or so lawsuits filed by accused male students, Williams features an accuser who also was a college employee. And at several points in the process, Williams administrators appeared to favor their employee over their student—in a manner that likely would have generated outrage if the genders had been reversed.

The new filings deal with attempts by the accused student’s lawyer to depose President Falk and two members of the college disciplinary panel that voted to expel her client. The judge previously had limited the number of depositions to ten per side.

There are, however, two items of potential interest included in the filings.

The first: as part of the discovery process, the accused student has obtained the training material that Williams uses for its Title IX adjudicators. (Since 2011, the federal government has required colleges to train adjudicators in sexual assault cases—and only sexual assault cases.) To the best of my knowledge, no college or university has voluntarily publicized its training material; my co-author Stuart Taylor and I obtained around a dozen schools’ training materials and analyzed their overwhelmingly one-sided nature. For a comparison to the criminal justice system: imagine if, in rape and sexual assault trials and only in those trials, the prosecutor could require jurors to spend 3-5 hours reading general material on the topic that the prosecutor herself selected—and then could deny the defense attorney any chance to see the material at any point in the process.

Williams’ training material is less unfair than that of some other institutions (for a particularly egregious example, see pages 20-21 of this decision against Penn, which eventually led the college to settle the case). Williams, typically, has filled its training with frightening statistics that say nothing about the specifics of the case the panel is supposed to judge. (One slide, for instance, claims—without citation—that 21% of college students experience dating violence from their current partner.) More problematically, the training (which is supposed to be gender-neutral, since males as well as females can be victims of sexual assault, and because gender-biased training risks violating Title IX) appears to presuppose that sexual assault victims are female, listing “toxic masculinity” as a cause of sexual assault. Would a Williams adjudicator, faithfully following this type of training, have decided to overlook the accuser’s dubious conduct? Even more problematically, the training includes a slide entitled “Meet Frank,” an apparent reference to a composite character—from decades ago—from researcher David Lisak. An exposé in Reason raised significant questions about Lisak’s credibility in his use of “Frank,” who the researcher inaccurately presented as a single person rather than a collection of quotes. The training also has several slides about trauma-informed investigation, a controversial theory debunked by Emily Yoffe in a high-profile Atlantic article.

Also striking is what the training doesn’t contain. It doesn’t, for instance, mention the presumption of innocence. Or the need for fairness. Or the importance of allowing the accused student a meaningful opportunity to defend himself.

In short, the training appears designed to make it more likely that a Williams disciplinary panel will return a guilty finding when considering sexual assault allegations.

The second item from the filings: the accused student’s lawyer included a snippet of the deposition from the investigator Williams hired for the case, an employment lawyer named Allyson Kurker. The deposition has little of substance, though Kurker’s confusion about Williams’ standards is a little striking.

More interesting here is Williams’ decision to hire Kurker in the first place. In Title IX litigation, Kurker is best-known as the investigator in an Amherst case that might well be the single most unfair adjudication of any in the country since the 2011 change in policy. (The student sued Amherst, easily survived a motion to dismiss, and then the college settled.) Kurker’s investigation failed to uncover critical, exculpatory text messages sent on the night of the incident by the accuser. Then, in depositions, she attempted to dismiss the texts’ significance on grounds that the relevant texts would have been those that corroborated the accuser’s story.

Given that record, what was the process used by Williams in hiring Kurker?

In terms of where the case might go from here, two thoughts. First, on Friday, the judge in the Williams case, Michael Ponsor, ruled in favor of UMass in a lawsuit filed by an accused student named James Haidak. Though Ponsor gave a token acknowledgement to the due process concerns, most of his lengthy opinion outlined his very forgiving standard toward college actions.

Despite some factual differences, the UMass and Williams cases have at least one important similarity: in both cases, the accused student was a highly unsympathetic figure. There’s certainly nothing in Ponsor’s holding to suggest that he (unlike judges in many of the dozens of due process cases in which the college has been on the losing end) is a judge who’s particularly concerned about the problem of unfair campus adjudication procedures.

On the other hand: while only around two dozen accused students have survived motions to dismiss on Title IX claims, colleges have been vulnerable in cases where the female student also appeared to have committed some form of misconduct, yet the institution only investigated and punished the male student. For a particularly obvious example of this pattern, see page 37 of the decision in the Amherst case.

Usually, these cases involve a single incident (for instance, sex when both parties are extremely drunk, and so neither student had the ability to consent under often-restrictive college rules). The Williams case doesn’t feature such a fact pattern—but in one respect, it’s worse: the college seemed indifferent to the possibility that a female employee was filing retaliatory complaints against a student. If, in the end, Williams loses this case, the college’s decision to so blatantly favor one party in a deeply dysfunctional relationship will likely be the reason why.

Why won’t (can’t?) the Record cover this important case, especially stuff like the absurdity of hiring Kurker?

By the way, is Kurker still working for Williams?

Facebooktwitter

Welcome President Mandel

To the Williams Community,

It is my honor and pleasure to inform you that on Sunday, March 11, the Board of Trustees appointed Maud S. Mandel as the 18th president of Williams College. President-elect Mandel, who will begin her tenure at Williams on July 1, 2018, currently serves as Dean of the College and Professor of History and Judaic studies at Brown University.

You can learn more about President-elect Mandel by watching a video interview we’ve posted on the special announcement website, where you’ll also find her CV and other information about her scholarship and career.

I could not be more excited about welcoming Maud Mandel to the college. She has a distinguished record as a scholar, a teacher and an academic leader, and has demonstrated throughout her career a deep and abiding affection for the students, faculty and staff who together create a great academic enterprise. She embodies the values at our core and will provide outstanding leadership as we continue to pursue our shared aspirations for Williams.

I want to thank the members of the Presidential Search Committee for their extraordinary work leading to this terrific result for Williams. We were privileged to meet many exceptional people in the course of our search, and all of us on the Committee, and on the Board of Trustees, were truly inspired by President-elect Mandel during the selection process.

We look forward to welcoming President-elect Mandel for a visit to campus in early April, and will provide details as soon as the agenda is confirmed. In the meantime, you can begin to get to know her by exploring the materials on the announcement website.

Congratulations to President-elect Mandel, and best wishes to all of us as we begin this next chapter in the extraordinary history of Williams College.

With warm best regards,

Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Presidential Search Committee
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

Worth a week to review this material?

Facebooktwitter

Hoary Specter of Junior Faculty “Mentoring”

ambrosius aurelianus, an anonymous member of the Williams faculty, writes:

I meant the high rate at which tenure is granted–right now around 80%, a number that reflects changing attitudes to the nature of tenure decisions and an administrative belief that it is the job of departments and their senior faculty to help all of their junior hires achieve tenure.

This means, effectively, that extending a tenure-track job offer is four-fifths of a tenure decision, which tempts committees to opt for safe candidates rather than take risks. In general this tips the scale in favor of applicants some years out from their PhD, with considerable teaching experience and many publications, and tends to disadvantage junior people still finishing their dissertations or straight out of grad school. That, in itself, is regrettable. In practice it also tends to make small defects in a dossier disqualifying; no amount of upside can overcome them. Committees will get spooked by the suggestion that someone’s book might never come together, even if they show all signs of being a fantastic teacher (or, conversely, if they have great publications but they’ve never logged a lot of classroom time and their syllabi are lackluster, we’ll also be tempted to pass). In my experience some of the most potentially brilliant candidates are lopsided like this. If we weren’t so committed to tenuring nearly everyone we could afford to give more exciting people a trial run. This is especially true when we’re not sure about the research, because worst case scenario, we get six years of amazing teaching out of the candidate. But we rob ourselves of these opportunities.

A cultural commitment to maintaining a high tenure also feeds the hoary specter of junior faculty “mentoring.” In itself it’s not a bad idea to look after our junior hires, but now a lot of my colleagues see junior faculty as the other half of their pedagogical mission. Frankly this hasn’t been great for junior faculty culture at the college, and its also inevitably been bound up with a lot of overblown and unhelpful evaluative methods.

Interesting stuff! aa should join us as an author and tell us more about faculty life at Williams. I would also be curious about sigh’s take on these issues, as well as the views of other academic readers.

Facebooktwitter

Hall Monitors of the Diversity Brigade

From an anonymous faculty member:

I think Seery paints a very partial picture of “politically correct scripting,” one calibrated to spare his colleagues. At Williams I’d say the diversity brigade has three pillars of support: 1) Student life administrators and elements in the office of the Dean of the College, 2) more or less the entire office of the Dean of the Faculty, and 3) a substantial faculty bloc, consisting particularly of faculty in politically sensitive fields.

I want to emphasize that I like a lot of these people individually. Almost invariably they are personally well-meaning and generous. Collectively, though….

Faculty side admins put pressure on hiring and strive to define new positions in such a way as to yield the right kind of candidates, thus expanding the faculty bloc. Here it is important to note that diversity considerations provide a pretense for the administration to interfere in matters of departmental governance where it most matters, i.e. hiring and promotion. As long as this remains the case, upper administrators will always have reason to sponsor the circus. Meanwhile, politically conscious faculty and the student-facing admins create, coordinate and direct activist tendencies among our acolytes. This process makes a lot of things happen. One of them is that a great part of the campus-wide discourse is directed to identity politics 2.0, the constant elaboration of theories of repression and dominance. Another is that the process reinforces itself as student discontent demonstrates the need for more diversity-brigade staffing and more diversity-brigade activity.

I don’t know what my point here is really. I guess the Davis Center putting out lawn signs is the least of it. These are just incidental manifestations of a constant dialogue about oppression and oppressors that is echoed by many of our invited speakers, that recurs constantly in informal discussions by the Hollander espresso machine, and in faculty and committee meetings, infecting almost every social interaction (seriously, from mundane scheduling matters, to curriculum tinkering and syllabus design, internal administrative chores, you name it). On the one hand I teach my classes and write my articles and work out and I’m fine. On the other hand, the hall monitors of the diversity brigade, so quick to detect structural oppression in their opponents, have become stunningly blind to their own powers and repressive tendencies. Also there is an anti-intellectual aspect to their rhetoric that I find increasingly embarrassing.

Facebooktwitter

Falk Quad == Farquaad?

What does Williams think of Adam Falk?

Lordfarquaad[T]he Board of Trustees unanimously voted to honor Adam Falk, our 17th president, by naming the Science Quad in his honor. The decision continues a Williams tradition of naming important public spaces in honor of our past presidents.

In addition, a group of current and former Trustees and other generous donors have endowed the directorship of the Center for Learning in Action (CLiA) in Adam’s name. The Adam Falk Directorship is a tribute to his founding support for the Center, which engaged more than 800 Williams students in projects across our community and region this year alone.

“Williams” is, of course, not a very well-defined entity. You, random alum, might hate Adam Falk. Collette Chilton might think he’s wonderful. But, to the extent Williams, as an institution, has expressed a judgment, it is via these honors. The trustees’ opinions can be gauged by considering these names and comparing them to names bestowed in the past.

First, Falk is definitely not in the top rank of Williams presidents (again, as judged by the trustees and major donors). Those presidents — Sawyer, Chandler, Schapiro — get major buildings named after them. Falk doesn’t even get a building!

Second, Falk is not even in the second tier of Williams presidents. Phinney Baxter ’14 once had the major building on campus, the old Baxter Hall and, even now, still has Baxter Great Hall within Paresky. Frank Oakley, while not in Sawyer’s league, was still a successful president. You might think that the Oakley Center is fairly modest, at least in comparison to Schapiro Hall. But those who know Frank can confirm that he has loved the Center for the past 30 years and would much rather have his name associated with it than with any of the larger buildings on campus.

And so we come to the third tier. Hank Payne, president from 1994 to 1999, is widely (and, I think, unfairly) regarded as an unsuccessful Williams president, which is one reason why there is no campus building named for him. The trustees and/or major donors have only given us the Harry C. Payne Visiting Professor of Liberal Arts and the Harry C. Payne Professor of Poetry.

Williams places Adam Falk squarely in the third tier of Williams presidents over the last century. Indeed, other than Hank Payne, it is hard to think of a president that the college has so dissed with its naming largess.1

First, we have the Adam Falk Directorship. This isn’t even a named professorship, two of which Payne was honored by. Professors have higher status than administrators. Perhaps the CLiA was something that Falk truly cared about. (Informed opinions welcome, but I certainly don’t recall him talking about it much.) In any event, this is a small $ gift.

Second, we have the . . . Adam Falk Science Quad? Falk Quad? Who else is reminded of Lord Farquaad, the short-statured, dark-haired, inept ruler of Duloc in the movie Shrek? This strikes me as almost an insult:

a) Who is ever going to use the words “Adam Falk Science Quad?” Not me, nor any student/professor. It is an absurd mouthful. If they name something after you, and no one ever says the name, then what is the point?

b) Might the phrase “Falk Quad” be used? Maybe. (Reader opinions welcome.) It certainly does not roll of the tongue! Everyone currently uses the phrase “science quad” to refer to that part of campus. Will that really change? I have my doubts.

If 10 years from now, the only thing permanently associated with Falk’s name is an administrative position — and not even for a position in the top rung of administrators! — then it will be clear that the trustees and major donors view Falk’s tenure as a disappointment.

[1] It could be that the College, once the Capital Campaign is complete, will name a major building after Falk, perhaps one of the new structures in the science quad. If that happens, we will revisit this conclusion.

Facebooktwitter

Daily Quizzes

quizzes

1) How common are daily quizzes at Williams? Back in the 80s, I can’t recall a single class — perhaps outside of the languages — using them. Has that changed? Is Kornell an outlier? I can’t think of another class that uses them . . .

2) What do people think of daily quizzes? I hate them because they are a symptom of classes that are too large. Tutorials (and small seminars?) don’t use or need daily quizzes because students have no choice (?) but to do the readings. No More Lectures!

3) I think that daily quizzes were common back in the 50s. Can any of our more senior EphBloggers comment? The excellent book, Newhall and Williams College: Selected Papers of a History Teacher at a New England College, 1917-1973, includes some discussion of Newhall’s use of quizzes in his history classes.

Facebooktwitter

← Previous PageNext Page →

Currently browsing posts filed under "Faculty"

Follow this category via RSS