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Merry Christmas

grading

Merry Christmas to all! EphBlog hopes that the world is looking prettier to Ephs far and wide.

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Almost 20% Low Income?

This naive and uninteresting article on elite college admissions mentions:

What top colleges and universities really have to do is reach out to students who don’t apply to them in the first place, said Adam Falk, the president of Williams College, almost 20 percent of whose students are low income, and which flies high-achieving low-income prospective applicants to its campus and teams up with a nonprofit called QuestBridge to find them.

The idea of need-blind admission “fits nicely on a bumper sticker,” Falk said. But “simply taking your admission pool and turning off your information about the financial need of students isn’t good enough. You have to go out there and find students. That means going into communities with high financial need and actively recruiting there.”

It also means supporting students from those places when they show up, Falk said.

Anyone who believes that 20% of the students at Williams are low income is a fool. Readers interested in this topic should start with this ten part rant from 2014.

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College Fix on Safety Dance

They start with a great headline:

College employee falsely accused student of rape so she wouldn’t get fired, lawsuit claims

This is much better than our first effort since it mentions the (obviously false) rape accusation. After reading the material associated with the case, no reasonable person would believe that John Doe sexually assaulted Susan Smith. However, I don’t think that Smith used the false rape accusation to avoid getting fired. The timing does not work out. This is much more likely to be a women-scorned scenario.

Williams College is withholding a former student’s diploma based on transparently false rape accusations by a college employee – his former lover – who believed her job was jeopardized by him, a new lawsuit claims.

The former student accused the once-religious private school of conducting an “inherently flawed” and “fundamentally unfair” rape investigation, in violation of his Title IX rights, and violating federal education privacy law.

1) Again, the most important (and indisputed!) facts of the case are that Smith/Doe were having sex for a year, then something happened one night, then they continued to have sex for another year. Now, obviously, sexual assault can occur in the middle of a long-standing sexual relationship. But there ought to be a fairly high standard of evidence required if you are going to ruin someone’s life in this scenario.

2) Why the College Fix uses the (accurate) description of “once-religious private school” for Williams is a mystery to me. Is this some sort of weird right wing tic?

To investigate the employee’s claims, the college hired the same person named in a lawsuit against nearby Amherst College that said her work was rushed and one-sided in favor of the accuser.

That would be Allyson Kurker, another person who makes money off of the weaponizing of sexual relationships in college. If you are accused of sexual assault, the last thing you want is Kurker to investigate the claim. From KC Johnson:

In the deposition, Kurker made clear that when accusers change their minds about whether they were sexually assaulted, what they previously said about their attack isn’t relevant to her inquiry. She added that she was interested in contemporaneous writings from the accuser only “to the extent that the incident is being described as nonconsensual.” Kurker continued: “The only e-mails that I would have found material” were those in which A.S. had described the incident as nonconsensual. This standard suggests that Kurker sees her job as not searching for—indeed, arguably concealing—potentially exculpatory evidence.

And Williams still hired her! There are dozens of Massachusetts attorneys who would love to get money from the College to investigate sexual assault claims. Why would Williams hire someone like Kurker who is so obviously biased against the accused? The naive answer is that Williams is incompetent, that it did not know about Kurker and did not bother to check out her previous work. The scary answer is that Williams knew all about Kurker, knew that she was biased against the accused and hired her anyway because, after all the complaints over the Lexie Brackenridge case, the College wanted to collect some scalps.

In May [2016], with less than a month before Doe’s graduation, Smith filed a counter-complaint with the Title IX office alleging that he had “displayed abusive behavior towards her during the past two years.”

Smith’s initial complaint provided few details as to the nature of her claim. During the Title IX investigation, which took place over several weeks and included several interviews with witnesses provided by Smith, she made several new allegations.

That timing is the strangest part of the case. It is May 2016. Smith graduated in 2015. Doe is weeks away from graduation. She tried to get him thrown up on trumped up honor code violations and failed to do so. She has been employed by Williams for almost a year but has been (I hope!) told that, given her behavior in striking (!) a student, the College will not be renewing her contract. The relationship between Doe/Smith has been over (really??) for months. So, why file a complaint now?

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Genius of Winding Paths

Lovely essay by Professor Michael Lewis about Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York City’s Central Park.

Olmsted’s work is so lovely and unassailable that one is surprised to realize how unoriginal it was. His entire repertoire of motifs—pleasing juxtapositions of trees and meadows, serpentine paths that hug the contours of the land, rustic bridges and pavilions, sudden passages of rugged terrain and ravines—was thoroughly conventional. So too were his aesthetic values, which might be summarized as variety, contrast, and surprise. These were the principles of the picturesque, which erupted onto the scene suddenly in eighteenth-century England and with worldwide consequences. They were already old long before Olmsted’s birth. Whatever his achievement was, and it was spectacular, it did not consist in the invention of a new approach to landscape. What then, exactly, did Olmsted do?

If the basic American understanding of land was the unsentimental utilitarianism of a colonial mercantile society, there was also a latent residue of idealism. This was the legacy of the religious refugees of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries whose town planning was saturated with biblical ideas of a perfect ordered society. Olmsted himself was a product of New England Puritanism in its final manifestation, having been born just as its Calvinist core was dissolving into Transcendentalism and releasing its moral energies into American political and social life. Had Olmsted never existed, someone else surely would have applied the moral force of this ethic to landscape design, making parks the vehicle of social reform. But it is inconceivable that anyone else would have had the same deep cistern of human sympathy to drawn on. It was a cistern patiently filled during walks in England, ramblings through the South, urgent work for the Sanitary Commission, and all the other restless divagations that make up the career of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Read the whole thing.

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Jackall Votes Trump

Registered Democrat and son-of-a-union-steel-worker Professor Robert Jackall voted for Donald Trump. He writes:

The issues to me are quite clear:

1.our over-regulated economy

2. our destructive trade deals

3. our ‘deal’ with Iran’

4. Obama’s dereliction of duty in opening our borders to all comers. The principal loser of his actions is precisely black Americans, though they don’t recognize the destructive consequences of his immigration policies because of their racial loyalty to him.

5. The necessity for tax cuts instead of increases.

6. the necessity for a massive de-regulation to eliminate the growth-crushing burden created by Obama’s regulations

7. the necessity to rein in presidential executive orders, which pervert the constitution.

8. the necessity to come to grips with the national debt, increased by 100 percent under Obama. This issue alone will destroy us if we leave it unaddressed.

First, political diversity among the faculty is important, so it is nice that there is at least one Trump voter among the 300+ professors at Williams. Are there any others?

Second, the Williams Forum is a new student organization, similar to the old Williams College Debate Union. It ought to host a collection of debates about Trump with a variety of liberal faculty members arguing against Jackall.

Third, which of the above arguments do our readers find most/least compelling?

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Griffin Vandalism was a Hate Hoax

Latest all-campus e-mail:

From: Adam Falk
Date: Monday, November 14, 2016
Subject: An update on the vandalism in Griffin Hall
To: WILLIAMS-ALL@listserv.williams.edu

To the Williams Community,

We write to inform you that Campus Safety and Security has identified the people responsible for the vandalism in Griffin Hall that occurred over the weekend. Two students were identified and interviewed, and during interviews they admitted that they alone were responsible.

The students told CSS that they had committed the vandalism to bring attention to the effects of the presidential election on many within our community. The use of “AMKKK” was not a specific reference from anyone affiliated with or supportive of the Ku Klux Klan, nor was it intended as a threat. Rather, we understand it was meant to signify AmeriKKKa, a spelling of America that references racism in our society.

The students will be held accountable for their actions through the college’s disciplinary procedures. Their actions did much more than damage property; they harmed our entire community and caused considerable fear, among students in particular. We are deeply distressed that anyone in our community would feel compelled to express themselves in such a destructive and harmful way. We understand that many continue to experience anxiety and fear in the wake of the election. Acts such as this vandalism are not the answer, and they will not be tolerated in our community.

Our thanks go to CSS for its tireless and thorough investigation and to all those who offered assistance in this effort. Please know that the deans, chaplains, Davis Center staff, and Psychological Counseling Services staff are available to provide support at any time.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk, President
Leticia S.E. Haynes, VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

1) EphBlog told you so! To be pedantic, this was perhaps not so much a hate hoax — as in 1993, 2011 and 2012 — but just simple politically-inspired vandalism as in the hockey rink vandalism of 2015.

2) Instead of getting the campus all riled up with those absurd e-mails, a smarter Administration would have, from the start, raised the possibility of a hoax and mentioned the historical examples. Why terrify students, especially students of color, with a claim that white racist KKK members were roaming the Williams campus? (Cynical reasons would include both that students like to be terrified and that, without constant racial controversy, there would be no need for a highly paid “VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity.”

3) EphBlog should have guessed the “AmeriKKKa” usage. Who else recalls the Amerika mini-series of 1987?

4) “caused considerable fear, among students in particular.” But that was because of Administration incompetence! Will Falk et al be held accountable? I have my doubts!

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Vandalism in Griffin Hall

To the Williams Community,

We write to share with you news of a disturbing incident of vandalism that occurred over the weekend in Griffin Hall. The vandalism was discovered and reported to the Williamstown Police Department around noon on Saturday by a visitor to campus.

Police determined that the vandalism, while abhorrent, did not create an immediate danger, nor did it constitute a specific threat toward any individuals or groups. Had there been a confirmed threat to our community we would have communicated with you about it immediately. We worried–without any information about the intent behind the act of vandalism–about the impact of an immediate campus-wide notification on our community, including the possibility that it would cause fear. We thought it important and responsible to wait until we investigated further, in the hope we would soon have more complete information to share.

Here’s what we know. Sometime on Saturday morning, what appears to be a wood-stain type substance was splattered down the stairs inside Griffin from the top to the first floor. The visitor who reported it to police described the stain as looking like blood. In addition, “AMKKK KILL” was written on the wall along the stairs in red paint. The same paint was found on some posters on the bulletin board outside Griffin 3.

WPD and Campus Safety and Security began an investigation, and WPD has notified the FBI and the Massachusetts State Police. Both WPD and CSS have continued an active investigation ever since, with CSS interviewing more than 40 individuals.

This vandalism is disturbing and intolerable, no matter what motivated it. In the current post-election climate, we have a heightened awareness for any actions or expressions that may be bias incidents. So far it has not been determined that this vandalism was a bias incident, but we will inform you if that changes, and we hope to report to you soon that the responsible person or people have been identified. If you have any information that might aid the investigation, we urge you to call CSS at X4444.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk, President
Leticia S.E. Haynes, VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

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Utter Bankruptcy of Their Concept of Diversity

A faculty member writes in:

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

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

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

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In Solidarity

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

Dear Tenured Faculty of Williams College:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) Here is the entire letter to Falk:

Dear President Falk,

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Should we spend a few days deconstructing this pap?

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A Path Forward, Together

To the Williams Community,

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

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Concerning

roberts

Betting markets are at 50/50. Stay tuned!

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On SCS Forms and Teaching Evaluations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Diversity and Equity Forum V

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fac

But what about Eqeiq, Nassif, Singh and Yacoob?

fac2

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

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

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

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

Read more

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EphBlog Loves Provost Love

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

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

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

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

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Crowe ’03 on Trump

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

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

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Paul’s Questions on Faculty Growth III

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

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

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

ps2002

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

ps2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) Should we spend more time on this topic?

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Paul’s Questions on Faculty Growth II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul’s Questions on Faculty Growth I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Neutral Space

deface
An anonymous Williams professor points to this Daily Message:

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

The professor comments:

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

Indeed!

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Republican/Conservative/Libertarian Professors

A New York Times op-ed last week:

Faculty members in New England are far more liberal than their counterparts anywhere else in the nation, even controlling for discipline and school type. In 1989, the number of liberals compared with conservatives on college campuses was about 2 to 1 nationwide; that figure was almost 5 to 1 for New England schools. By 2014, the national figure was 6 to 1; for those teaching in New England, the figure was 28 to 1.

I cannot say for certain why New England is so far to the left. But what I can say, based on the evidence, is that if you are looking for an ideologically balanced education, don’t put New England at the top of your list.

Who are the Republican/Conservative/Libertarian professors at Williams? According to campus gossip (and EphBlog reporting), the following is a partial list.

Republicans: Steven Miller, Chris Gibson and Jane Swift. Are there any other faculty members that are registered Republicans? Tell us in the comments!

Conservatives: Michael Lewis is perhaps the most famous “conservative” professor at Williams, known for his writing at the Wall Street Journal, Commentary and other outlets. He was a strong critic of Falk’s decision to ban Derbyshire.

Libertarians: Kris Kriby and Fred Strauch.

Curmudgeons: This is the category of professors who all almost certainly voted for Obama and are not registered Republicans, but who care about ideological diversity and/or are conservative (or at least anti-leftist) in the context of the Williams faculty. James McAllister, Robert Jackall, Darel Paul and George Marcus come to mind. Others?

There are no women here (other than Swift who is both a visitor and a vanishing presence on campus). Who is the most conservative (or least liberal) tenured or tenure-track female professor?

UPDATE: Apologies (?) to Professor Paul who has kindly informed us that he did not vote for Obama.

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Bailey Thesis Students

One of the many ways you can know that Duane Bailey is everything a Williams professor should be is because he brags about his thesis students. Why don’t more Williams professors do the same? Because they care more about promoting their own work than they care about promoting the work of their students.

But what is worse is that Williams does not care (as much) as it should . . .

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Grade Inflation

grad_inflation

Imagine that Professor Kornell wants to do something about this. What advice do you have for him?

Start with transparency. What is the distribution of grades at Williams today? How has it changed over time? How does it vary by department? There is no good reason to keep this a secret, other than shame. Here is the data from 2008–2009. Here is recent data for Middlebury.

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Mismatched Physicists

Four Williams physics professors signed this absurd letter to the Supreme Court.

Dear Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States,

We are writing to you today as professional physicists and astrophysicists to respond to comments made by Justices in the course of oral arguments of Fisher vs. University of Texas which occurred on Wednesday, December 9, 2015. First, we strongly repudiate the line of questioning from Justice Antonin Scalia based on the discredited Mismatch Theory [1]. Secondly, we are particularly called to address the question from Chief Justice John Roberts about the value of promoting equity and inclusion in our own field, physics.

As always, EphBlog is curious about the backstory. How did Professors Strait, Wooters, Majumder and Doret ’02 end up signing this letter? Why didn’t the other members of the department sign?

More importantly, these professors are in a position to provide data about the mismatch hypothesis, a recurring topic at EphBlog. Consider the students in the class of 2016. Many of them, in the Common Ap, expressed an interest in studying STEM at Williams. Some of them did and some of them did not. Of those students:

1) What percentage of students with math/reading SAT scores above 1500 kept with their plan of studying STEM?

2) What percentage of students with math/reading SAT scores below 1350 kept with their plan of studying STEM?

The Mismatch Hypothesis would suggest that more students in group 1 stayed with STEM than students in group 2. You could examine the same topic by race.

If Professors Strait, Wooters, Majumder and Doret ’02 were interested in increasing our knowledge, they would gather this data for Williams and publish the results. Why won’t they?

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Indigenous People’s Day

indig

At its monthly meeting Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, the faculty of Brown University amended the Faculty Rules and Regulations to change the designation of the second Monday of October from Fall Weekend to Indigenous People’s Day.

In April 2009, the faculty voted to change the name of Columbus Day to the Fall Weekend holiday after several months of discussion. On Oct. 27, 2015, members of the Native Americans at Brown (NAB) student organization presented a resolution to the Brown University Community Council (BUCC) calling for the name change of the Fall Weekend holiday to Indigenous People’s Day. The BUCC, a University-wide body for discussion and advisory recommendations on issues, passed the resolution urging the Faculty Executive Committee to put the item on its agenda for consideration.

Renaming the holiday, according to the rationale for the motion presented to the faculty, “would recognize the contributions of Indigenous People/Native Americans to our community and our culture and foster a more inclusive community.”

1) Is Professor Roberts in favor of this change or making fun of it? (On Twitter, those are the two most common options!)

2) What is Williams policy? Good question! The College still considers Columbus Day an official holiday, at least for staff. Duane Bailey maintains (?) this screen shot from a decade (?) ago which reported that “The College does not have a tradition of celebrating Columbus day.”

3) Should Williams remove any reference to “Columbus Day” for the same reasons that Brown has?

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April 2012 Faculty Meeting Diversity Presentation

In our on-going efforts to make Williams more transparent, here (pdf) is a 2012 presentation on faculty diversity. A representative chart:

fac_diversity

Comments:

1) Graphs in Excel give me a headache! Please use R, like all the cool kids in the Williams statistics major.

2) I think that “US Minority” includes Asian Americans who are, of course, significantly over-represented among Ph.D. recipients and, I think, on the Williams faculty.

3) What is the latest count of Hispanic professors at Williams? Recall our detective work 11 (!) years ago on the magnificent 14. At that time, we though that these were the only Hispanic faculty at Williams:

Gene Bell-Villada (Romance Languages)
Maria Elena Cepeda (Latino Studies)
Ondine Chavoya (Studio Art)
Joe Cruz (Philosophy and Cognitive Science)
Antonia Foias (Anthropology)
Soledad Fox (Romance Languages)
Berta Jottar (Theater)
Manuel Morales (Biology)
Enrique Peacocke-Lopez (Chemistry)
Ileana Perez Vasquez (Music)
Merida Rua (American Studies and Latino Studies)
Cesar Silva (Math)
Armando Vargas (Comparative Literature)
Carmen Whalen (Latino Studies)

Some of those folks have left. Others have joined. What is the current count?

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Professor Leslie Brown, RIP

Sad news (via Yik Yak) that Professor Leslie Brown passed away on Friday.

Condolences to all.

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Why Williams College’s President Canceled a Speech

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Dear Mr. Wood,

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

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

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope this clarifies matters.

Yours,

Adam Falk

Related article and discussion here.

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Over the Edge

From The New York Times:

Trump’s acceptance of the nomination tonight reflects the capitulation of the venerable Republican Party, which has proved unable to protect either its traditions or its principles.

“There has never been a major-party nominee quite like Trump; no party has gone over the edge in the way the Republicans are about to,” Mason Williams, a professor of history at Williams College, wrote by email:

Constraints that would have prevented the nomination of a candidate like Trump have been removed — by party and ideological polarization; by the weakening of the political parties as organizations; and by the fact that primary voters, rather than party bosses or even more ideologically oriented party activists, now have the power to choose the Republican nominee. In the past, party organizations were strong enough to filter out contenders as aberrant as Trump. Evidently, no longer.”

Hmmm. I am not sure what Williams means here by “over the edge.” Trump’s chances at this stage of the race are about as good as McCain’s and Romney’s at the same stage as their failed campaigns.

odds

I would gladly wager that Trump does better than they did, whether or not he actually wins.

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Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire V

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 5.

Here’s where Uncomfortable Learning comes in. Having recognized that there is a growing uniformity of thought here (and elsewhere), its leaders invested a great deal of effort in bringing to the College points of view that typically go unheard. Twice their events have been canceled events. Perhaps Hopkins Hall can save them the trouble by showing them the blacklist of speakers who are persona non grata. And, while they’re at it, they might explain why it was a dreadful thing to have a blacklist in 1952 but it is morally correct in 2016.

Of course it isn’t called a blacklist. It is a symptom of the fundamental dishonesty of this day that we hesitate to call things by their right names. Back in the 1930s, that age of international fascism, the Louisiana populist Huey Long was asked if he thought fascism could ever succeed in the United States. “Sure,” he replied, “just so long as they call it anti-fascism.”

1) “events have been canceled events” Don’t the Record editors even read these articles?

2) The blacklist of 1952 was horrible because it targeted people on the left. Those are the good guys, as every Williams student is taught. The blacklistees of today — people like Venker and Derbyshire — are of the right. They are evil and should not be heard. At least, that is how Adam Falk sees it.

Again, I can’t recall a Williams faculty member even being so publicly critical of a Williams president. The question now, however, is: Will Professor Lewis and other faculty fight for free speech and open debate on the Williams campus?

I have my doubts. Lewis is a busy guy with many interests. Does he even live in Williamstown? Is he really willing to engage in the local faculty/student politics that taking Falk would require? I hope so! And EphBlog has some suggestions for when the fight begins . . .

Uncomfortable Learning is now in a stronger position than ever because now the College must decide, ahead of time, which speakers it is going to ban.

Imagine that UL leaders want to make life tough for Adam Falk. All they need to do is ask him (or the “Assistant Director for Student Organizations & Involvement in the Office of Student Life”) if they may invite person X to Williams. That is what the policy requires of them. They don’t have to — in fact, they are not allowed to! — invite person X before getting this permission. But this procedure (permission first, invitation second) means that they can endlessly torture Adam Falk by asking for permission for speakers that span the continuum from John Derbyshire on leftward.

The College is then trapped. Either they allow Uncomfortable Learning to develop a long list of all the speakers that Williams has banned (imagine the Washington Post article that would come out of the leaking of this list!) or they have to draw the line at Derbyshire and allow just about everyone else in. With luck, they will be smart enough to choose Door #2.

Does Uncomfortable Learning have the necessary student leadership to take advantage of this opportunity?

Professor Michael Lewis could do this as well. He could, easily, send an e-mail to Falk asking if it is OK for him to invite Jared Taylor or Richard Spencer or Milo Yiannopoulos or Ann Coulter or Charles Johnson or . . .

Either Falk says “No” and we crucify him on a cross of open debate or he says “Yes” and the problem is solved.

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Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire IV

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 4.

Homogenous intellectual environments are not good at responding to new factors or conditions, as I learned from my own college experience. I went to Haverford, a Quaker college known for its extraordinary moral probity (with the country’s most rigorous honor code). I was there during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, throughout which time, in all my courses in political science, history and economics, I never heard the slightest suggestion that mighty shifts in American public opinion were underway that would lead to the Ronald Reagan landslide of 1980. My professors probably were unaware of their omission. But by being unable to give students a fair and well-informed summary of the basic tenets of the Reagan platform, other than a mocking caricature of it, Haverford failed in its duty to prepare its students for American life.

Something similar seems to be happening today with Donald Trump. We may write him off as a laughable neo-Napoleonic carbuncle, but if a sizable portion of the American population thinks otherwise, then our students need to hear the most articulate case for Trump – and hear it here, without having to drive to Renee’s Diner in North Adams. And if they cannot hear it from their professors, then they ought to be able to hear it regularly from outside speakers.

“[L]aughable neo-Napoleonic carbuncle” is great writing!

Recall that Lewis was writing in February. The case for Williams students being exposed to “the most articulate case for Trump” is even stronger now, obviously.

Is Lewis suggesting that his Williams colleagues in political science — like EphBlog favorites Sam Crane, James McAllister, Justin Crowe ’03 and Cheryl Shanks — can’t (or won’t) give the best case for Trump in their classes? If so, he should come right out and say it. That has never been EphBlog’s position. The problem is not that Williams faculty can’t teach or that their classroom teaching is biased. The problem is that the collection of speakers that Williams has invited to campus over the last few years includes exactly zero conservatives/libertarians/Republicans/Trumpians.

John Derbyshire, by the way, was one of the first Trump supporters among the chattering classes, back in July 2015. If Williams had more speakers like him than students/faculty/Falk would have been less surprised by the rise of Trump.

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