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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?

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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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Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire III

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 3.

All this takes place against the background of a college that proclaims, ceaselessly and fervently, its commitment to diversity. But, as defined at the College, diversity seems to mean embracing the full variety of individual human differences – except for ideas and opinions. Here is why the Derbyshire and Venker incidents are so alarming. The College is fast approaching a state where the genuine exchange of serious ideas – in open public debate, with good will and mutual respect – is made impossible because a growing number of opinions are considered out of bounds. As Mary Detloff, the College’s director of media relations told The Berkshire Eagle, Derbyshire’s views on race, women’s rights, gay rights and sexual harassment render him “unsuited to discussions at Williams College.” Of course, once everyone’s views are homogenous, it’s hard to imagine what would be left to discuss.

Indeed. Lewis is exactly right about the danger and about the direction in which the College might go, might even be going right now. Recall the student who reported that although he supported Trump, he didn’t want to tell people that for (reasonable!) fear as to what that would do to his “social standing.” That seems like a problem to me! If the Williams student community chooses to ostracize someone merely because he will be voting for Trump, then honest discussion and debate becomes impossible.

But Michael Lewis, tenured member of the Williams faculty, is in a good position to do something about this! He could invite a series of speakers that agree with Trump (if not Derbyshire) on a variety of issues, thereby expanding the range of acceptable opinion on the Williams campus. If several Trump-supporters were to speak this fall, students who also support Trump would be less likely to be ostracized and more likely to speak out.

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Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire II

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 2.

The excuse is the familiar platitude that “there’s a line somewhere” that divides free speech from hate speech. And speech that crosses this line must be squelched, even at the point of covering the ears of the listeners. But the notion that there is a line between free speech and hate speech is a curious one. Free speech is a principle that you can define in absolute terms. Hate speech is an accusation – frequently a moving one – which doesn’t lend itself to the drawing of neat lines. The only stable definition for hate speech is speech that makes someone hate you.

Isn’t that exactly backward? At Williams, and places like it, hate speech is not “speech that makes someone hate you.” Hate speech is speech that you hate. Perhaps I am confused by what a “stable” definition is? Perhaps I am defining hate speech descriptively — meaning a definition that an outsider could apply to Williams and use to predict what speech the community would define as “hate” — while Lewis is being more prescriptive, trying to come up with a new definition which we might all agree on and then use going forward.

You don’t have to agree with Derbyshire to believe that the College did something wrong in forbidding him from speaking here. Administrators can make blunders, but this isn’t a blunder; rather, it’s part of a larger and ominous pattern. Last October, the same students who invited Derbyshire were pressured into rescinding their invitation to Suzanne Venker. This itch to censor is not even limited to the present. Right now, a committee is tracking down “potentially problematic” historical art on campus. Its mission is encapsulated in a remarkable leading question (a question so artfully constructed as to yield but one answer): “What should be done about historical images that portray the College as less welcoming than we are or aspire to be?” Framed that way, it’s hardly a surprise that the mural in the Log depicting Chief Hendrick – the Mohawk ally of Ephraim Williams – has been found objectionable and whisked behind plywood.

Lewis was much too pessimistic with regard to the mural. Williams (and Falk, to his credit) has decided to keep the mural at The Log. Is Lewis also wrong about the “larger and ominous pattern?” I hope so! Certainly, across higher education, there is a move to greater censorship, especially of “conservative” views. But Williams has always been more mainstream than other elite liberal arts colleges and so, one hopes, less likely to slide down the censorship slope. Remove the Venker rescission (which was truly the decision/fault of the students who invited her) and the mural controversy, and the pattern becomes the single instance involving Derbyshire. Perhaps things are less dire than Lewis makes them out to be?

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Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire I

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 1.

The title (chosen by Lewis?) of this Record op-ed is “A new blacklist: How the disinvitation of John Derbyshire reveals a troubling pattern of censorship on campus.” I can not recall a harsher public criticism of a Williams president by a Williams faculty member. Can anyone?

No one who really believes in free speech ever says, “Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard,” as our College’s president did last Thursday in a campus-wide email. If you believe in free speech, you simply practice it, which means going through your life listening to a good deal of cant, nonsense and occasional sheer vileness. One can always walk away; this is what it means to be an adult. But when someone sings a song of praise for free speech, you can reckon with mathematical certainty that there is a but circling in a holding pattern overhead, waiting to drop. It didn’t take long. President Falk’s paean to free speech ended with the inevitable: but John Derbyshire is not free to speak here.

I could not agree more. However, this being EphBlog, let’s engage in some small-minded editing suggestions. First, the “but” in “but circling” definitely needed quotation marks. Otherwise it reads too similar to “butt circling.” Second, planes don’t “drop” from a holding pattern, they “land” from one. Bombs drop but, when they do, they come from planes, not from holding patterns. Third, it is interesting to look at the Google search for Falk’s phrase. Turns out that no one has ever said this exact phrase before, which is not a critique of Lewis since he was obviously referring to sentiments like this in general.

But the uniqueness of the phrase makes it easier for us to find all the other critiques of Falk, like this one from Ken White at Popehat and this from Jonathan Adler at The Volokh Conspiracy. Lots of excellent material to get us through the dog days of August!

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Confronting Climate Change Suggestions I: Judith Curry

Adam Falk is making 2016-2017 the year of Confronting Climate Change at Williams. Let’s try to be helpful for a change and suggest some interesting speakers that he and Professor Ralph Bradburd should invite to speak. Today is Day 1 of five days of suggestions.


Judith Curry
is:

an American climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research interests include hurricanes, remote sensing, atmospheric modeling, polar climates, air-sea interactions, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for atmospheric research. She is a member of the National Research Council’s Climate Research Committee.

Seems pretty qualified to me. Judith Curry certainly knows much more about the science of climate change than many of the speakers that Williams is already inviting. In fact, she probably knows more about climate science than all of the current speakers put together! (With luck, some hard scientists will soon be added to the current list of activists, writers and ethicists.)

Curry blogs here and has a homepage here.

However, I bet that Professor Ralph Bradburd won’t invite her because she disagrees (pdf) with the consensus view of climate change. Prove me wrong!

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Black Lives Matter in Williamstown

There was a Black Lives Matter rally (protest? march?) at Williams.blm

1) Could our readers provide some details? When was this event? Who organized it? Who spoke? What was it like?

2) When is the candle light vigil for the slain Dallas police officers?

3) If I were a BLM activist in Williamstown, the concrete change I would work towards is the disarming of the Williamstown police. Given how safe the area is, there is no reason why cops need guns on their hips. They are much more likely to be used in a tragic accident (a la Tamir Rice) than to save a life. Firearms would still be available, of course, in the car or at the station house for the very few situations that require them.

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Dickinson Could Have Done Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Windows on Williams II

Welcome! We’re spending the week covering Windows on Williams. Today, I’ll be bringing you through the parts of WOW that stuck out to me as memorable:

Welcome Dinner and Introductions

Quite interesting! At the other fly-ins I went to, for the first night, you were handed a meal ticket and pretty much left to shift for yourself at one of the cafeterias. Williams, however, has a whole separate banquet type thing, with catered food and huge tanks of iced apple cider, where student interns in the admissions office mull around and answer any questions that visiting students might have.

I like this quite a bit. It gives the student hosts a break, it gives our visiting students more time in front of admissions office staff, and, it makes for a good venue to conduct introductions from.

Jamboree: Student Performance Showcase

Wretched. Awful. Needs to die, both at Williams and as a convention of the fly-in generally. For one, they almost always schedule the student performances on the first night — when everyone is jet-lagged, and cranky, and really not in the mood to watch a step routine. (And, might I add that attendance is usually mandatory.)

Any charms of the format wear thin by one’s second fly-in, usually. Mostly because there’s no variety between colleges. I visited three schools, hundreds of miles apart, in different athletic conferences and with radically different alleged styles of education; all of them subjected me to three acapela groups, two dance troupes, and some really maudlin, weirdly metered poetry.

Jamboree: Bad, Bad Trivia

What gave me the most hope for student showcase at Williams — the promise of trivia — ended up being the most disappointing. Here are the three of the questions they asked at my WOW: “What war did Col. Ephraim Williams fight in?” ; “Who is the director of admissions at Williams?” and “Williams is the second oldest college in the state of Massachusetts, what school is the oldest?”

Seriously? We, purport to, and in fact have, a very rich trivial tradition at Williams. And this is the best we can do?  I don’t want to put too fine a point on this (because WOW as a whole is great and my specific critiques should be read as footnotes to mountains of praise) but how fun is it to ask students to recall the name of an admissions director they’ve just met? And why the last question? Why are we bothering, even indirectly like this, to compare Williams to Harvard? It seems a slimy way to rub some of the Harvard prestige off on Williams. Why not ask a question about Pres. Garfield, or Leehom Wang? It might teach the youth something.

 Mountain Day

My WOW, the October session, ended up falling on Mountain Day. I couldn’t imagine a better time to be on campus; the idyllic, sexed-up Williams that we ought to be showing prefrosh comes out on Mountain Day. Can we bring future WOW classes to campus during Mountain Day without spoiling the surprise? It’s my hope we can.

Sample Classes

Very good! Surprisingly good, actually. I was worried that, at fifty students apiece, the sample classes would be overcrowded, but, evidently there exist members of the Williams faculty that can teach fifty student seminars. Prof. Leyla Rouhi, in particular, had a sort of rockstar quality; there was a line of people waiting to speak to her after she finished teaching.

Divisions Dinner

I won’t say much about it, because unqualified praise doesn’t need the space. Interestingly, two Ephblog favorites, Prof. Joe Cruz ’91 and Prof. Steven Miller, were both in attendance at the October WOW. Prof. Miller even gave the whole room a neat little demonstration of Benford’s Law.

That concludes our post today! Tomorrow, we return to the usual Ephblog listicle format as well as to reasonable standards of length.

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Aidan’s Way

Still looking for a Father’s Day gift? EphBlog recommends Aidan’s Way by Professor Sam Crane. Excerpts here. More from an Amazon review:

Every now and then a book comes along that wakes us out of our drab routine lives and makes us reevaluate essential questions: what is important? Am I doing something worthwhile with my life? What is life’s meaning? Trite as it may sound, “Aidan’s Way” does just that, but in a way that is subtle and avoids self-indulgent breast-beating. At its core, “Aidan’s Way” is a resounding affirmation of life. Sam and Maureen Crane are the parents of Aidan, who is profoundly retarded mentally–he cannot walk, talk or see. At every turn, they face the possibility that he may die. Pneumonia assaults his lungs and grand mal seizures force him to rely on a feeding tube for sustenance. Adversaries come in human guise as well, with the Cranes heroically combating outrageous abuses by their HMO, doctors stereotyping Aidan as “one of THOSE kids,” and a heartbreaking moment of frustration when an indecisive nurse fails to administer a drug in time to stop Aidan’s seizures from permanently damaging his already fragile brain. There are heroes, too — a doctor with cerebral palsy who doggedly probes the causes of Aidan’s condition while others write him off, a younger sister who brings hope and joy to the family, and countless therapists, journalists, and teachers. Aidan touches hundreds of people.

Indeed. Sadly, Aidan is no longer with us, except in spirit.

Thanks to Sam for reminding us all what fatherhood really means.

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Woodward Report V: The Cruz Committee

Simplicio, a regular commentator here and at the Record, suggests viewing the Falk/Derbyshire dispute through the lens of the Woodward Report. Let’s do that for five days. Today is Day 5.

What’s the most important lesson that Adam Falk could learn from the Woodward Report? Smart presidents use committees! With luck, Falk has already learned that lesson in the debate over the log mural. He should follow the same strategy in dealing with free speech. Create a “Committee on Freedom of Expression at Williams.” Appoint a cross-section of faculty/students/alumni, but with a sotto voce emphasis on free speech. Charge the Committee with reviewing the history of free speech debates at Williams, meeting with members of the College community, and recommending policy going forward.

Best person to put in charge? Philosophy Professor Joe Cruz ’91.

Whether the Cruz Committee comes out in favor or against the banning of John Derbyshire does not matter. What matters, in the midst of a major capital campaign, is putting the controversy behind us.

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Woodward Report III

Simplicio, a regular commentator here and at the Record, suggests viewing the Falk/Derbyshire dispute through the lens of the Woodward Report. Let’s do that for five days. Today is Day 3.

Simplicio may be right that the Woodward Report is a useful touchstone since both supporters and opponents of Uncomfortable Learning take it seriously. Professor Sam Crane comments (while quoting from the Woodward Report):

Yes, the Woodward Report is instructive. Note:

Third, the University could be more effective in discharging its obligation to use all reasonable effort to protect free expression on campus. We submit that this obligation can be discharged most effectively in the following ways:

1) The University and its schools should retain an open and flexible system of registering campus groups, arranging for the reservation of rooms, and permitting groups freely to invite speakers.

This suggests that when “group” is discussed in the report, it is referring to a group that has been officially registered or recognized by some standard procedure.

“Uncomfortable Learning” violates this provision of the Report. It has never been formally registered by the College. It does not follow the standard procedures that other student groups follow. It is not a student group of Williams College.

Here, too:

6) Much can be done to forestall disruption if sufficient notice is given of the impending event. The administration and others can meet with protesting groups, make clear the University’s obligations to free expression, and indicate forms of dissent that do not interfere with the right to listen. The inviting group can work closely with the administration to devise the time, place, and arrangements for admitting the audience (if there are any limits on who may attend) that will best promote order.

“Sufficient notice” was not provided in this case and, I believe, in most cases. Indeed, having spoken with campus staff responsible for scheduling events they have for some time noted the problem created by furtive manner in which “UL” operates. Its events have obviously caused “disruption,” indeed, they are designed to do so. But the events have not been responsibly organized.

“UL” should come into the organizational fold of the College, operate under the common procedures of the community, and be transparent about their membership, their goals, and their financing.

Agreed! As long as Sam agrees with me that, if they follow all the relevant rules, Uncomfortable Learning should have the same rights to invite speakers to campus as anyone else at Williams, I am happy to agree with him that they should follow the rules.

Of course, I think that Sam may misunderstand the rules and that he may, in the past, been unfair in applying them to UL but not to other student groups. But that is in the past! The new rules are fairly clear. Has EphBlog iterated to agreement once again? Or would Sam still support Adam Falk in banning speakers even if all the rules are followed?

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World of Work

What are your impressions of Professor Marlene Sandstrom’s thoughts on her new role as Dean of the College?

As Dean of the College, Sandstrom will work with President Falk on big-picture challenges. “One of the biggest challenges is that the world of work is changing. Career means something different now than it meant 25 or even 10 years ago,” Sandstrom said.

Gibberish. There is no evidence that the career paths — or whatever ill-defined meaning of “career” Sandstrom has in mind — of Williams graduates will be any different for the class of 2016 than they were for the classes of 2006 or 1991. People have been observing, for decades, that most Ephs will have a variety of “careers” and that, we hope, a liberal arts education would help to prepare them to walk that path. Here is an example from Commencement 8 years ago.

Francis Oakley hit on similar themes in his induction address more than 30 years ago. The world was changing very fast, even back in 1985, and Oakley argued that a Williams liberal arts education was the best possible preparation for that world. I am glad that Dean Sandstrom agrees with Oakley, but embarrassed (for her) that she thinks any of this is new.

“Dean Bolton initiated some really positive changes to our first-year advising system, and it is much stronger now,” she said. “There may be ways to make it even more effective. The advising relationship has the potential to be a very powerful one for students, especially if it gets off to a good start from the outset.”

Hmmm. First, precisely what changes did Bolton initiate? I have my doubts that anything substantive has been done, but informed commentary is welcome. Second, is there any evidence at all that first-year advising is “much stronger now?” Not that I have seen. (And, yes, it is pathetic that the Record never asks a skeptical question in these interviews.) Third, none of this is necessarily Bolton’s fault. First-year advising has been broken for at least 30 years, not because the Williams administration is incompetent but because it is a hard problem. Connect a first year with a faculty member and the latter will not know the answer to 90% of the questions that the former has. I have, of course, a partial solution to this problem, which the margins of this blog post are too narrow to contain . . .

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