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Sawicki Report, 3

President Maud Mandel has accepted the “recommendations in full” from the final report (pdf) of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, chaired by Professor Jana Sawicki. Consistent with our prediction from November and following the advice we laid out in February, academic freedom has returned to Williams. See here, here, here and here for related EphBlog discussions. Maud Mandel has now cleaned up Adam Falk’s legacy. Let’s discuss! Day 3.

The smartest thing that the Committee did was to pretend that there wasn’t a problem:

Very clever! But also a little dishonest . . .

The “official policy” at Williams for the last three years is that the Williams President reserves the right to ban speakers. Then-President Adam Falk began this disaster in 2016 with:

We [Williams College] have said we wouldn’t cancel speakers or prevent the expression of views except in the most extreme circumstances. In other words: There’s a line somewhere, but in our history of hosting events and speeches of all kinds, we hadn’t yet found it. We’ve found the line.

Then-Interim-President Tiku Majumder re-affirmed this policy in 2018 — just last year! — insisting that Williams would ban speakers who “provide no benefit in moving forward the conversation we are interested in fostering.”

This policy, consistent over the last two Williams presidencies, was never changed. Sawicki et al (conveniently!) pretend that it has changed or (even better?) pretend that it never existed in the first place. “Majumder” does not appear in the 75 (!) page Report. The body of the Report mentions Falk exactly once, never quotes him and fails to provide a single citation to anything he said or wrote.

Falk was airbrushed out of the history of free speech at Williams. And that was pretty clever! Why bother meeting your intellectual opponents on the field of battle when you can just pretend they don’t exist? Declare victory and move on.

Again, given its goals, this was a politically adroit decision by the Committee. But I would still like to see the College have a wide open discussion. How about a debate between Majumder and Shanks? How about inviting Falk back to campus?

That is what Gaudino would do . . .

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Sawicki Report, 2

President Maud Mandel has accepted the “recommendations in full” from the final report (pdf) of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, chaired by Professor Jana Sawicki. Consistent with our prediction from November and following the advice we laid out in February, academic freedom has returned to Williams. See here, here, here and here for related EphBlog discussions. Maud Mandel has now cleaned up Adam Falk’s legacy. Let’s discuss! Day 2.

The two biggest failures of the report — given their recommendation that Williams, in essence, adopt the Chicago Principles — were to not discuss a) Mark Hopkins’ decision to ban Ralph Waldo Emerson from speaking on campus, and b) Robert Gaudino’s claims about the importance of “uncomfortable learning.”

1) The Report, while well-written in places, was disjointed, clearly the result of a committee, perhaps a committee which was not as united as it ought to have been. A better chair than Sawicki might have recognized this and used her power as chair to, at least, write an Introduction which told the story of Mark Hopkins and Ralpha Waldo Emerson.

That is from page 162 of ​Mark Hopkins and the Log by Professor Frederick Rudolph ’39. The Report cites this book, but did anyone actually read it? I have my doubts. How about?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most important thinkers of the 19th century, was banned from speaking at Williams in November 1865, by Mark Hopkins, legendary president and occupant of one half of the proverbial Log. For more than 150 years afterwards, Williams upheld the highest standards of academic freedom, never banning a book, an idea or a speaker. Are we a College which bans or are we not?

OK, OK. This is not so good. But it isn’t bad! And the basic idea — that a well-written description of the most important example of speaker-banning in Williams history is the best way to start the Report — is spot on. Indeed, whatever committee is charged with writing “a statement on expression and inclusion” should steal this idea. You’re welcome!

2) Robert Gaudino is the one of the most important faculty members of the last 100 years. But don’t believe me! Recall Adam Falk’s (?!) Induction Address:

Liberal education strengthens the mind and spirit so that a human being may more fully engage the world. Since Mark Hopkins’ time a string of Williams educators has further developed this idea. In the middle of the last century Professor Robert Gaudino pushed his charges to learn uncomfortably, in India, in rural America, in situations within the classroom and without that challenged the safe and familiar worlds they’d brought with them. If Mark Hopkins was the first professor to ask his students, “What do you think?” then Gaudino and others, including faculty of today, have raised the asking of that question, with all its implicit challenge, to a form of art.

Our faculty walk in the footsteps of Hopkins, Gaudino, and so many others.

Falk recognized, correctly, that Gaudino was one of the most important figures in recent Williams history, second only to Mark Hopkins in his influence on how Ephs think about themselves and about the education they receive. Gaudino’s notion of “uncomfortable learning” is central to the debate about free speech. This excellent article (pdf) from the Alumni Review provides a sense of what Robert Gaudino would do if a controversial speaker were invited to campus.

gaud1

And yet the Committee seemed not to know about this! There are no (meaningful) mentions of Robert Gaudino in the report, no acknowledgment that the very name of the student group — “Uncomfortable Learning” — that invited Derbyshire was a direct reference to his vision of a Williams liberal arts education.

What a missed opportunity!

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Jerry Coyne is a Fool

My co-blogger JCD approvingly quotes from this pile of nonsense from University of Chicago Professor Jerry Coyne. Sadly, our new experiment means that I can’t comment on JCD’s post. So, I need to post here.

Note that Coyne and I are on the same side of the barricade when it comes to free speech at Williams and Chicago. Yet his comments are too ignorant to let stand.

The committee’s statement does not constitute a policy.

This is simply false, as I explained in detail this morning. Williams has accepted the AAUP/PEN recommendation of allowing any Williams student/professor to invite any speaker. Admittedly, there is plenty of turgid prose and SJW verbosity in much of the report but such sins do not provide Coyne with free rein to mislead his readers.

Associate Professor of Biology Luana Maroja wrote a post calling for Williams to adopt the Chicago Principles of Free Expression, which have already been endorsed by 64 American colleges and universities.

This is highly misleading. I realize that Chicagoans, like Coyne, think that their “Principles” are super-duper cool but — News Flash! — schools believed in academic freedom before the Chicago faculty whipped up a poorly worded statement in 2014. Trying to claim credit for changing/strengthening/affecting the views of every other school is nonsense. The list that Coyne links to includes Amherst, and yet a search of the Amherst website reveals zero hits for “Chicago Principles”. How can then be if Amherst has “endorsed” it? Answer: It hasn’t! Amherst has its own statement. In fact, its statement references the AAUP, just like Williams’.

On some dimensions, it is a small thing for Coyne to not know which schools have approved the Chicago Principles and which have not. But he is holding himself out as someone with a clue about this topic, someone qualified to opine on what is happening at Williams. He isn’t.

The 13-person committee appointed by Mandel included just five faculty, as well as four undergraduates, a rabbi, a librarian, a staff therapist, and, bizarrely, the director of the 50th reunion program.

Don’t you just love Coyne’s snottiness? Jerry Coyne is an intellectual, a man with ideas. Mark Roberston ’02 (the director of the 50th reunion program) is a . . . what, exactly?

I happen to know Mark. He is every bit as smart, every bit as thoughtful as Coyne (appears) to (sometimes) be. In fact, I would much more trust Mark to get the facts correct. Coyne is, at least in this post, absurdly sloppy.

But the report isn’t great, as it simply won’t unqualifiedly endorse the Chicago Principles.

As if the Chicago Principles are so wonderful? As if the first page of ass-kissing quotes of former/current Chicago Presidents isn’t an embarrassment? Consider:

What folderol! What would it even mean to “endorse” such trivialities? Think that I am cherry-picking the worst paragraph in a two (!) page report? How about:

Of course, College presidents spout a lot of feel-good nonsense. It is a part of the job. But for Coyne to pretend that the “Chicago Principles of Free Expression” are some sort of magical tablet, brought down from the Mountain by the intellectual giants on the Chicago Faculty is just absurd. Mark Roberts ’02, despite (because of?!) his lack of a Ph.D., could come up with something much more impressive.

There are another half-dozen mistakes/misunderstandings/stupidities in Coyne’s post. Shall I go through them? Let me know!

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Fatal Flaw

CHICAGO – The distinguished free speech absolutist, Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, has reviewed the Sawicki Report and found it disappointing. To be more precise, he calls it “lame” and labels it “long and turgid.”

The only thing Coyne likes about the report is it dropped the suggestion floated earlier by Jana Sawicki at Inside Higher Education that each student group should have a faculty adviser who would “…talk with the club members about whether they’d thought through how the speaker’s views would affect their peers.”

Ultimately, Coyne asserts it is impossible to combine freedom of speech with inclusion and diversity.

Setting an example of simplicity and grace, Coyne introduces his article with a short and easy to understand summary of the Sawicki Report and its most significant and fatal flaw. “The committee’s statement does not constitute a policy,” he writes. “…it’s a farrago of good intentions and desires to balance free speech with diversity and inclusion. But it offers no guidelines about what speech is to be seen as “hate speech” that threatens “dignitary safety” and therefore subject to institutional action.”

Fans of Ephblog will note that Jerry Coyne quotes liberally from my recent Ephblog article accessing the Sawicki Report. As you may know, Jerry Coyne is a prominent “New Atheist” along with Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Reportedly, Coyne’s Why Evolution is True blogsite has over 50,000 e-mail subscribers.

John C. Drew, Ph.D., is a former Williams College professor. He contributes to American Thinker, Breitbart, Campus Reform, The College Fix, and WorldNetDaily. He has been an Ephblog regular since 2010.

 

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Sawicki Report, 1

President Maud Mandel has accepted the “recommendations in full” from the final report (pdf) of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, chaired by Professor Jana Sawicki. Consistent with our prediction from November and following the advice we laid out in February, academic freedom has returned to Williams. See here, here, here and here for related EphBlog discussions. Maud Mandel has now cleaned up Adam Falk’s legacy. Let’s discuss! Day 1.

I agree with 90% of the report. Read it and you’ll know what I think. But that’s not why you come to EphBlog! What follows are all the usual quibbles, complaints, idle speculations and endzone dances . . .

The Sawicki Report recommends that Williams “[a]dhere to policies and principles regarding campus speakers articulated by AAUP and PEN America.” This is the most (only?) important recommendation. Once you have tied your policies to the free speech absolutists at AAUP and PEN, everything else is boring details.

May I take a victory lap?

1) Maud has done exactly what I advised Falk to do three years ago:

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.

This is precisely what Maud did, although she used a different professor of philosophy (Sawicki instead of Cruz) and a different committee name. (The key sotto voce free speechers on the committee were Strauch, Shanks and (maybe?) Nelson and Sawicki herself.)

2) I predicted this outcome last fall. Maud wanted to move Williams back to free speech. She followed EphBlog’s advice — actually the same advice would have been given by any knowledgeable observer of elite education — and, unsurprisingly, succeeded. Well done!

3) Kudos to abl who wrote:

If I were trying to engineer a committee to achieve my desired result, I would stack it with faculty members who I know agree with my position and students who don’t (but aren’t so entrenched to be unpersuadable–like students who have signed the petition but not taken more of a public role in the issue), and hope to get to a “bipartisan” proposal that relies on persuading the students in question.

Which is exactly what happened. (I was, incorrectly, much less sanguine about the Committee’s likelihood of success.) Although student members Michael Crisci ’21 and Rachel Porter ’21 had signed the student/alumni position against the Chicago Principles, Shanks/Strauch/others were able to bring them around.

4) Note that reliance on AAUP, first (?) suggested by EphBlog in February.

The best way to solve the controversy over “free speech” (and controversial speakers) at Williams is to reframe the discussion around one of our core values: academic freedom.

First, every Williams faculty member will agree that every Williams professor deserves untrammeled “academic freedom.”

Second, every Williams faculty member will agree that the best definer and defender of “academic freedom” is the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Academic Freedom -> AAUP -> All Invited Speakers Welcome

And so on. Did Sawicki get this idea from EphBlog? I don’t know. Great minds think alike, after all. But I did send it in via the Committee’s handy submission form . . . and note this line from the Report:

Given that no one has written more words, read by more students/alumni/faculty, about free speech at Williams over the last three years, at least one footnote to EphBlog would have been nice. But we will take what we can get!

4) Apologies for the navel-celebration. But this has worked out exactly how we wanted, in exactly the manner we forecast.

And that is why — I hope! — you read EpgBlog . . .

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Free Speech Wins at Williams

John Derbyshire will be coming to Williams.

BREAKING NEWS: Consistent with our prediction from November and following the advice we laid out in February, free speech has returned to Williams.

The Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion — chaired by Professor of Philosophy Jana Sawicki — has issued (pdf) their final report. Key paragraph:

In the absence of an institutional statement on the foundational values of intellectual and academic freedom, the College has aimed to follow the guidelines of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). These hold that academic freedom affords faculty members unfettered discretion in inviting speakers to campus, and that students, too, should be able to “invite and hear anyone of their own choosing,” as long as the events are “conducted in a manner appropriate to an academic community.” Current Williams policies for speaker invitations are consistent with these guidelines.

There is a lot of material here. Should I spend one, two or three weeks going through it? Reader preferences sought!

Td;dr: Hooray, Maud! The old policy at Williams — the Falk Rule — was that the Williams College president could ban speakers. The new policy — the Mandel Rule? — is that any Eph (including staff?) may invite any speaker.

And that is just what EphBlog has always recommended.

UPDATE: See below for Maud’s message.

For branding purposes, I vote that we go with “The Sawicki Report.” This is a nice parallel to the two other most important documents out of Williams in the last twenty years: The MacDonald Report and The Dudley Report.

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EphBlog Loves Love

EphBlog’s favorite member of the administration, Provost Dukes Love, continues his admirable commitment to transparency by posting all his presentation materials. The latest was “Opportunities for Impact: Supporting our Students (April 2019)” (pdf). Should we go through this report, or any of his others, in detail?

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College Council Meeting Notes

The College Council provides a solid archive of meeting notes, going back to 2009. Still, I am very sad that it does not go back further. Who else remembers the glorious notes of Jonathan Landsman ’05?

Sadly, CC refuses (?) to make the notes for current meetings publicly available, even to alumni and local residents. Pathetic. Fortunately, we have our sources!

The April 16 minutes are available to students. The central debate about WIFI is covered fairly well.

The April 23 minutes are not available for download, even to students. But our sources are clever, so they provided some screen shots. See below the break. Example:

A full zip archive of meeting notes since 2016 is here.

Key points:

1) It was stupid for the Falk administration to change the rules and force student groups to seek recognition from College Council even if they were not seeking funding. (Falk and Co did this to make life more difficult for dissident groups like Uncomfortable Learning.) Student organizations can be trusted with many important decisions — selecting JAs, distributing funding — but not with this one.

2) Excessive student powers will be used against all unpopular groups, not just those unpopular with the Administration. By the way, BDS has yet to hit Williams in a big way. What happens when it does?

3) If Maud is smart, she will change the Student Handbook this summer to allow any student group to be created by simply submitting a form with the Dean’s Office. This will allow the group access to all the basic tools — like room reservations — that it needs to function. CC does not need to fund it, but they can’t ban it.

4) There are plenty of rich Jewish alumni that Maud will try to raise money from over the next few years. What do you think their views are on this topic?

5) College Council should just make its meeting notes and livestream public. The truth will come out anyway and, perhaps more important, a public livestream encourages better behavior from your guests.

Screen shots of minutes for April 23:

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Official College Reports

We have not done a good job of archiving various College reports over the years. (And, of course, it is beyond pathetic that Williams itself mostly fails to do so.) So, as a reminder, let’s review some of them here.

1962: The Angevine Report (pdf). This is the single most important Williams document of the last 100 years. It led to the elimination of fraternities at Williams. Isn’t it embarrassing that the College doesn’t host a copy of the report on its own servers?

2002: The MacDonald Report (pdf). This led to a dramatic decrease in the admissions preferences given to athletes. The College actively refuses to make this report publicly available. This discussion was updated in the “2009 Report by the Athletics Committee: Varsity Athletes and Academics” (pdf).

2005: The Dudley Report (pdf) which led to the creation of Neighborhood Housing, the single biggest failure at Williams in the last few decades. Note also the CUL reports from 2002 and 2003 which paved the way to this disaster.

2005: Williams Alcohol Task Force Report. Sadly, I don’t have a pdf of this report. Does anyone? The issue of alcohol is a perennial one at places like Williams. Whatever committee tackles it next should start by reading this report. I think that this was a follow up to the 2004 Report on Alcohol Policy (pdf).

2005: Diversity Initiatives. I think (but can’t find it right now) that the College does maintain a (pdf) of this report. The Record should do a story about what has happened in the last decade.

2008: Waters Committee Report (doc) which led to the elimination of the Williams in New York program. Professor Robert Jackall, creator of WNY, wrote this response (doc) and this memorandum (doc). See the October 2008 faculty meeting notes (pdf) for more discussion. Future historians might argue that this report was more important than the MacDonald report since it highlighted a turn inwards by Williams.

2008: A Report from Williams is a summary/celebration of the Aim High capital campaign.

2009-2010: The Neighborhood Review Committee began the process of dismantling the Neighborhood system. There were two interim reports (part I and part II) and two final reports (part I and part II).

2016: The Merrill Committee Report (pdf), also known as the “Report and Recommendations on the Log Mural” from the Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History. This committee showed Williams at its very best, handling a potentially difficult situation with thoughtfulness, in an effort featuring significant student leadership (especially from Jake Bingaman ’19 and Matthew Hennessy ’17). Kudos to all involved!

There are other reports that should be added. Suggestions? I think that I will turn this into an annual post, with updates as needed. Would any readers like to spend a week going through the details of one of these reports?

If we won’t remember Williams history, who will?

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October 17 Faculty Meeting Agenda

Dear Colleagues:

We look forward to seeing you at the faculty meeting on October 17 at 4:00 p.m. in Griffin 3.

The agenda and related materials are attached to this email.

Best,

The Faculty Steering Committee & Maud Mandel, President of the College
Sara Dubow (Chair), Division II
Colin Adams, Division III
Michelle Apotsos, Division I
Matt Carter, Division III
Aparna Kapadia, Division II
Amanda Wilcox, Division I

———–
Here are the materials (pdf), well-written and thoughtful as always. Any insiders with opinions?

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Report of the Honor Committee 2016 — 2017

Reports from the Honor Committee are always worth reading. Let’s save permanent copies for the last three years: 2014-2015, 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. Below the break, I have saved permanent copies going back 15 years. Comments:

1) The last three years have featured 19, 18 and 23 cases, similar to the 10 year average. Recall our discussion about the 34 cases in 2017-2018, for which we do not yet have a report. Are Williams students cheating more or is the College more diligent in catching them?

2) The Committee deserves praise for being so transparent in telling us what happened and why. Example from 2016-2017:

Transparency is wonderful, because it both discourages future cheating and helps build community consensus about unacceptable behavior and the appropriate punishments thereto.

3) But even more transparency would be better. In some reports (as above) they make clear the gender of the student. That is good! If cheating is more male than female (or vice versa) then we have a better idea about where to devote our educational efforts. Another location for increased transparency is reports like this one:

Besides gender and class year, it would be good to know the specific course, or at least the department. If cheating is more common in Chemistry or in Division III, then that is where we should focus our efforts.

What is your favorite case from 2016 — 2017?

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Form 990 History

Purpose of this post, updated once a year, is to maintain our history of the Form 990s issued by Williams. (Thanks to John Wilson ’64 for leading the charge on these efforts over the years.)

Form 990 is an IRS requirement filed by all US non-profits. It is a confusing document that has changed significantly over the years. See here for background reading. Williams only provides versions going back to 2009. Future historians will thank us for archiving older versions: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. In fact, because Williams occasionally hides things that it once made public, let’s go ahead and save the more recent filings: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Should I spend a week going through the latest version?

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Faculty Meeting Next Week

Given that this material, sent out to 300+ people, is essentially public, the College ought to just publish it on the web page for the Dean of the Faculty.

Dear Colleagues:

We look forward to seeing you at the first faculty meeting of the semester on September 12 at 4:00 p.m. in Griffin 3. At the end of the meeting, there will be a small reception in Griffin to welcome the new faculty.

The agenda and related materials are attached to this email.

Best,

The Faculty Steering Committee & Maud Mandel, President of the College
Sara Dubow (Chair), Division II
Colin Adams, Division III
Michelle Apotsos, Division I
Matt Carter, Division III
Aparna Kapadia, Division II
Amanda Wilcox, Division I

Notice anything interesting in the pdf?

I enjoyed this whine:

1. Apparently (?) some faculty complained that the tuition grant is not as generous as they had assumed because other colleges discount financial aid awards accordingly. Questions:

a) What is the current tuition grant? I have a vague memory that it is half of Williams tuition. Or is it half of whatever the tuition charge is?

b) Is this grant just for faculty or for all staff? If it is for everyone, that it must be pretty expensive. If it is just faculty, then how does the College get away with such a benefit? (My understanding is that any organization needs to be very careful when it makes benefits non-uniform across employees.)

c) How does the College handle this for employees who send their kids to Williams? The right approach is to treat all students/families the same.

2) I like the explicit statement that the College reserves the right to change/end this absurd program. (And note how unfair it is to faculty who either don’t have children and/or don’t send their children to college.) We ought to end it now, at least for new hires.

The best way to predict the behavior of Williams is to imagine that it run by a cabal of clever insiders, intent on milking the institution for everything they can, financially and otherwise. Further evidence:

It is bad enough that the College offers any mortgage assistance at all. What are we running? A bank? Faculty should borrow money just like the rest of us! But notice the increasing levels of sleaze here. It used to be that the College would only subsidize your primary residence. Now, you can have one house wherever you like — and, of course, it is pathetic that the College has faculty who reside elsewhere — and then the College will subsidize a second home for you in Williamstown.

Perhaps the good news is that, when the next financial crisis hits, there will be plenty of fat to cut . . .

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MacDonald Report

Lest it disappear forever, here (pdf) is a copy of the 2002 MacDonald Report, originally entitled Report on Varsity Athletics by Ad Hoc Faculty Committee on Athletics. (Thanks for Professor Alan White for providing EphBlog with this copy, a much easier to read version than the one we have been using for the last decade.)

Should we spend a week on changes Williams athletics in the 16 years after the report?

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Provost Presentation at Alumni Leadership Weekend

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

Lots of interesting material, like this chart:

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.16.19 PM

Worth spending a few days going through in detail?

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April Faculty Meeting Materials: No More Sex with Students!

From: Faculty Steering Committee
Date: Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 1:26 PM
Subject: April 11 Faculty Meeting Agenda
To: WILLIAMS-FACULTY@listserv.williams.edu

Dear Colleagues:

We look forward to seeing you at the next faculty meeting on April 11 at 4:00 p.m. in Griffin 3. The agenda and related materials are attached to this email.

Best,

Tiku Majumder, Interim President of the College
The Faculty Steering Committee
Safa Zaki (Chair), Division II
Colin Adams, Division III
Matt Carter, Division III
Annelle Curulla, Division I
Edan Dekel, Division I
Gregory Mitchell, Division II

Materials here.

Biggest change (I think) is from the current faculty handbook which says: “All faculty are in a position of power with regard to students; hence, sexual relationships between faculty and students are almost always inappropriate.” Proposal is to replace this with:

All faculty are in a position of power with regard to undergraduate students; hence, sexual relationships between faculty and undergraduate students are prohibited. Sexual relationships between faculty and undergraduate students put claims of consent in question. It is difficult for a student to be certain of the motives of a member of the faculty. A person in a position of authority cannot be certain that the student’s consent is genuine, rather than motivated by an unspoken fear of the consequences of not consenting. In addition, a sexual relationship with a student may raise questions of unfair academic advantage or of unwarranted negative evaluation. These questions may adversely affect the educational environment of other students, as well as the student directly involved. Should any of these questions arise, sexual discrimination is at issue.

I expect the change to pass and would vote Yes. I hope that the Record follows up on this:

The Dean of the Faculty may grant exemptions to this policy in reasonable cases of pre-existing relationships. Any faculty member who wishes to request such an exemption should submit a written statement to the Dean of the Faculty explaining the reasons for the request. The Dean of the Faculty shall provide a response in writing to the faculty member and the Assistant Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity/Title IX coordinator.

Does Professor Jim Shephard’s relationship with his wife (and former student) Karen Shepard ’87 require retro-active permission from the Dean of the Faculty? Just curious!

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Report on Building

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 11.24.57 AM

The March 2018 Report on Building (pdf) is an amazing document. Kudos to Provost Dukes Love and his staff (especially friend-of-EphBlog Chris Winters ’95) for putting this together and for making it public!

There are a dozen days or more of material here. Should I go through it in detail?

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March Faculty Meeting

The March faculty meeting is tomorrow. See (here) for the relevant material. Comments:

1) Thanks to our sources! At some point, we will create a full collection of faculty meeting material. To see what we already have, start here.

2) Given that these documents are sent to 300+ people, they ought to just be posted publicly, especially since they represent Williams at its best.

3) I don’t see much of interest here. Do you? I would probably vote against this:

In addition to the divisional motions, there will be motions for proposals by the Theatre Department and the Dance Department to provide a record of student participation in productions and in studio courses, respectively, in the form of a 0.5 partial credit fifth course that would not count towards the 32 courses needed for graduation, analogous to the credit offered for lessons and some small ensemble participation in Music.

I don’t see a reason to load up the transcript, or bother the registrar, with this sort of stuff. Contrary opinions welcome!

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December 2016 Faculty Meeting Notes

These (pdf) are the notes for the faculty meeting held in December 2016, as distributed at the next faculty meeting in February 2017. Worth going through in detail?

Perhaps an anonymous source could send me these notes for the last year or so (daviddudleyfield at gmail)? Given that these documents are distributed to 250+ (300+?) people at Williams, there is no reason to keep them hidden. More transparency, please!

UPDATE: Here (pdf) are the Faculty Meeting Notes for October 2008.

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Official College Reports

We have not done a good job of archiving various College reports over the years. (And, of course, it is beyond pathetic that Williams itself mostly fails to do so.) So, as a reminder, let’s review some of them here.

1962: The Angevine Report (pdf). This is the single most important Williams document of the last 100 years. It led to the elimination of fraternities at Williams. Isn’t it embarrassing that the College doesn’t to host a copy of the report on its own servers?

2002: The MacDonald Report (pdf). This led to a dramatic decrease in the admissions preferences given to athletes. The College actively refuses to make this report publicly available.

2005: The Dudley Report (pdf) which led to the creation of Neighborhood Housing, the single biggest failure at Williams in the last few decades. Note also the CUL reports from 2002 and 2003 which paved the way to this disaster.

2005: Williams Alcohol Task Force Report. Sadly, I don’t have a pdf of this report. Does anyone? The issue of alcohol is a perennial one at places like Williams. Whatever committee tackles it next should start by reading this report. I think that this report was a follow up to the 2004 Report on Alcohol Policy (pdf).

2005: Diversity Initiatives. I think (but can’t find it right now) that the College does maintain a (pdf) of this report. The Record should do a story about what has happened in the last decade.

2008: Waters Committee Report (doc) which led to the elimination of the Williams in New York program. Professor Robert Jackal, creator of WNY, wrote this response (doc) and this memorandum (doc). See the October 2008 faculty meeting notes (pdf) for more discussion. Future historians might argue that this report was more important than the MacDonald report since it highlighted a turn inwards by Williams.

2008: A Report from Williams is a summary/celebration of the Claim High capital campaign.

2009-2010: The Neighborhood Review Committee began the process of dismantling the Neighborhood system. There were two interim reports (part I and part II) and two final reports (part I and part II).

There are other reports that should be added. Suggestions? I think that I will turn this into an annual post, with updates as needed. Would any readers like to spend a week going through the details of one of these reports?

If we won’t remember Williams history, who will?

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New Common Data Set

hmm writes:

Williams just posted their CDS which could be worth looking through: https://provost.williams.edu/files/williams_cds_1718.pdf

Massive surges in test scores this year than from any other year. Changing admissions strategy?

Another interesting points: Williams hit a 6:1 student to faculty ratio, which will likely be the lowest of any LAC. Good move. Most peers are 8:1.

Of Williams’s peer schools, only Pomona has posted their 2018 CDS as well:

https://pomona.app.box.com/s/p5wp4fuwww32ii3nn8kdijkcddcmgsuh

The test score gap between the two is gigantic this year; in the past, Pomona has had equal or higher test scores than Williams. Pomona is more racially diverse and has a higher percent of students ranking in the top 10%, as well as a higher yield, so it seems they deliberately made test scores a weaker factor.

Would be interested in seeing what people think. Kudos to Pomona for attracting a super diverse student body (even Stanford doesn’t have the same %), but is that worth significant declines in testing? It’ll be interesting seeing the long-term implications of this for graduation rates.

hmm should join us as an author. As should others! Make EphBlog Great Again!

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Investment Report

The 2017 Investment Report (pdf) is available. Worth going through in detail, like we did last year?

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Official Notification Letters for Class of 2021

For future historians, below is how Williams informed admitted students.

Early decision:

earlyd

Early write:

early

Regular decision:

regular

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Grade Distribution 2016-2017, 1

A source sent us the official registrar’s report (pdf) on the distribution of grades in 2016-2017. (Relevant background: data for 2008-2009 and 2013-2014, recent Record coverage, and prior EphBlog discussion.) Day 1.

1) Someone needs to write a thesis about grade inflation at Williams, an update, 20 years later, to “When A=average : the origins and economic implications of grade inflation at Williams College and other elite institutions,” by Peter Siniawer ’97. (And why isn’t this thesis available on-line?)

2) We need more transparency about grading at Williams. Recall my (unsuccessful) efforts to get the registrar to provide this data. Almost anything that is distributed to hundreds of faculty at Williams ought to be made public. Interested alumni/students/parents should not have to depend on EphBlog’s sources . . .

3) Division 1 should be called out for not holding the line on grades:

grades

The most distressing aspect of the differences across Divisions (and across departments) is the bad signals that it sends to students. If a student gets a B+ in an intro Computer Science class but an A in Theater, she might thing that this means she is “better” at theater than computer science. Isn’t this one way that Williams guides her on choosing a major that matches her abilities? But, of course, the College is lying to her. She is an average student in computer science and in theater. Lax grading by the latter is misleading her.

Of course, if the Theater Department, and Division 1 departments more generally, want more students, then misleading them about their actual talents may be just what the ticket . . .

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Provost Documents

Provost Dukes Love is, officially, EphBlog’s favorite senior member of the Williams Administration. (Dean Dave will always be our favorite administrator.) Dukes is (almost?) as committed to transparency as we are!

1) Recall his decision to make public all historical versions of the Common Data Set.

2) Having considered my question, he made public his presentation materials (pdf) from the Alumni Leadership meeting. Well done!

3) He makes other material public, even before we ask! Consider this Reporting on Staffing (pdf).

Any interest in spending a few days going through these materials?

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Form 990 V

The College’s Fiscal Year 2015 Form 990 is now available (pdf). Day 5 of a 5 day discussion.

Imagine that it is 2050 and Williams has suffered a dramatic reversal of fortune. We are no longer among the top 10, or even 20, liberal arts colleges. What is the most likely cause of this fall from grace? Financial mismanagement. What is the most common cause of financial disaster? Too much debt. Consider Williams today:

form990f

bond2

We have borrowed about half a billion dollars. The markets are at all time highs. The endowment earned -1% last year. What could possibly go wrong?

Details:

1) Are we really $500 million in debt? I am not sure. These Form 990s are confusing! Some debt may have been paid off already. And, most importantly, the endowment is, by now, probably over $2.5 billion. So Williams is still $2 billion or so in the black.

2) Why is there so much debt? Thirty five years of an equity/bond bull market and federal incentives for borrowing will make even the most risk-averse institution aggressive. In 1998, Williams had $72 million in debt. Increasing that by a factor of 7 can’t possibly lead to trouble, can it? Now, to be fair, as a percentage of the endowment, the increase has only been from 7% to 20%, so only a factor of three increase. And, if Williams had been more levered over the last 17 years, we would be much richer today. And borrowing lots of money to buy houses in Florida was a great strategy from 1998 through 2007. Until it wasn’t. Also, note how federal tax incentives (and loose regulations) encouraged such borrowing, both for speculators in Florida a decade ago and Williams today.

3) Is this too much debt? Tough to say! If we could be certain that the endowment, over the next 10 years, was going to go up by 7% (as it did over the last decade or two), then we ought to borrow billions more, since we only pay a few percent on the debt. (By the way, how much do we pay? Fixed income is confusing.) Most professionals, however, expect returns to be much lower going forward. If the endowment is flat over the next decade, then this debt will prove to have been a major mistake.

Recall these wise words: Leverage is a dangerous thing, for both hedge funds and small liberal arts colleges. It would have been a bad thing for Williams to reduce debt in the depths of the financial crisis a decade ago. Reducing debt now would be prudent.

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Form 990 IV

The College’s Fiscal Year 2015 Form 990 is now available (pdf). Day 4 of a 5 day discussion.

Perhaps the best news is that the College did not, I think, waste a lot of money on local spending, at least in 2015.

form990c

1) I have no objection to the College donating small sums, especially for items like the local ambulance since these “donations” are really “payments” for services rendered. (The ambulance transports many students each year.)

2) I object to large donations. Alumni give to Williams to support Williams. If they wanted to give to other non-profits like the local hospital or MASS MoCA, they would. Again, the best way to understand the actual behavior of Williams is to imagine that it is controlled by a cabal of selfish insiders, intent on devoting the College’s own resources towards their personal use. Classic example of such selfish behavior include giving $1 million to North Adams Regional Hospital, $250,000 to Mount Greylock Regional High School, and $2 million to MASS MoCA.

3) Although some of the individual donations are reasonable, the total of around $250,000 is way too much. That money should be spent on items that directly impact the quality of the undergraduate experience at Williams. For starters, hire some visiting lecturers so that students aren’t kicked out of popular classes like CSCI 135.

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Form 990 III

The College’s Fiscal Year 2015 Form 990 is now available (pdf). Day 3 of a 5 day discussion.

We talked a bit about compensation on Day 1. Here are the details for 2015:

form990d

comp2

Again, the meaning of total compensation in the Form 990 has, I think, changed over the years. The requirements for who should be included has certainly evolved, with more and more employees getting caught up in the reporting net. One needs to be careful about mixing up permanent compensation with one-time payments tied to early retirement. (For example, both Eva Grudin and Michael Brown received large one-time payments associated with their retirements.) All that said:

1) Spending on administrators is out of control. Williams has, over the last 20 years, gone from being a faculty-run college to an administrator-run college. Although Adam Falk continues to talk a good game about “faculty governance,” who do you think has more power at Williams: Steve Klass making $367,000 and talking with the President almost every day or some random (full!) professor making $180,000 and never having shared a meal with Falk?

2) There are 7 people (Reed, Sousa, Puddester, Chilton, Crosby, Klass and Wakeman) whose jobs did not exist at Williams just ten years ago. How did Williams manage to be the #1 liberal arts college without someone doing these jobs? The answer, of course, is that other people (mostly members of the faculty!) did this work a decade ago and they were paid much less for it. The total annual compensation for this group is almost $4 million. Again, the best way to understand the actual behavior of Williams as an institution is to imagine a conspiracy of insiders seeking to maximize their own power and compensation.

3) The need to give one-off payments to encourage retirement is absurd, the fault of out-dated tenure arrangements and the (new) illegality of forced retirement. The best solution is for Williams, going forward, to award tenure as a 30-year (rather than life time) deal. From age 35 to 65, you have the same tenure as Williams professors have always had. But, at age 65, you become an at-will employee, just like the rest of us poor schlubs. Anyone who argues that such a change would materially impact Williams ability to hire high quality junior professors is clueless about the actual state of the academic job market.

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Form 990 II

The College’s Fiscal Year 2015 Form 990 is now available (pdf). Day 2 of a 5 day discussion.

Imagine that Williams was run by people whose sole goal was to maximize their own economic well-being. (This is not true! People like Adam Falk, Dukes Love and Denise Buell care a great deal about the welfare of undergraduates and the success of Williams as an institution.) But humor me for a second. Imagine that it were the case, that Williams, like many (most?) older non-profits were to be captured by its employees, its resources diverted to serve their ends rather than those of the institution itself. What would we see? Stuff like this:

form990g

Why does the College have to provide housing help to members of the 1%? Steve Klass, a smart and talent fellow, makes over $300,000 per year. Plenty of banks would be happy to lend him money for his (very nice!) house. Of course, if you think of the College has being run by a conspiracy of insiders eager to line their own pockets, this makes perfect sense.

form990h

The above demonstrates the mechanism by which College spending spirals out of control. (The exact same process is at work in the ever-increasing CEO pay in US corporations.) First, Falk’s compensation is set by incredibly wealthy individuals. The current members of the Evaluation and Compensation Committee are not listed. (More transparency, please!) But, I think that they are usually/always a subset of the Executive Committee and that group is always (?) only permanent trustees (not elected alumni) and, therefore, dominated by members of the 0.001%. Many billionaires wonder how Falk can survive on $768,000!

Second, compensation is under Falk’s complete control. Why shouldn’t he pay his buddy Fred Puddester the big bucks? Williams is rich and no one (?) congratulates Falk for keeping expenses down. So, why not increase Puddester’s pay from $365,000 to $442,000 over just the last two years? No skin off your nose!

Third, all the usual madness of surveys and consultants has the same effect here as it has in the out-of-control setting of CEO pay. Every NESCAC school thinks that it ought to pay its president, its CFO, its VP of Campus Life at or above the median of all NESCAC schools. Certainly Falk/Puddester/Klass are at least slightly above the median! So, half the NESCAC schools raise salaries this year, and then the other half raise them next year. In the absence of meaningful competition, it is not clear where this process ends . . .

Still, the Trustees are concerned that Adam Falk can’t really get by on almost $800,000, so they also provide:

form990e2

Now, this is slightly unfair since the President has always gotten a house. (By the way, has Falk moved back in yet?) And arranging a golf membership is fairly common, and probably pre-dates Falk’s hiring.

I will save a my rant about the absurdity of paying-people-extra-to-quit for another day . .

Still, there is no excuse for feather-bedding like the below:

form990e

If you think of Williams as being run by a conspiracy of (highly intelligent) self-dealers, then all this makes sense. In fact, the most reasonable prediction is that more administrators will soon have access to these sweetheart deals . .

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Form 990 I

The College’s Fiscal Year 2015 Form 990 is now available (pdf). Day 1 of a 5 day discussion.

Form 990 is an IRS requirement filed by all US non-profits. It is a confusing document that has changed significantly over the years. See here for background reading. Williams only provides versions going back to 2009. Future historians will thank us for archiving older versions: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. In fact, because Williams occasionally hides things that it once made public, let’s go ahead and save the more recent filings: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Wow! We have been doing this a long time . . .

Is the past another country? From 1998:

1998pay2

Cumulative inflation between 1998 and 2015 has only been 45% so we would expect the total compensation for Adam Falk and Fred Puddester, Payne and Healy’s successors, to be about $397,000 and $244,000 respectively, right? The actual numbers are $768,000 and $442,000. Williams has raised administrator salaries around 90% more than the rate of inflation over the last 17 years.

It has not, however, raised faculty salaries nearly as much. From 1998:

1998pay

Note that is hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison with today because the highest paid professors in 1998 may be different — in terms of things like years of service or administrative duties — from the highest paid professors in 2015. Indeed, I am not even sure if items like health care and retirement benefits are included (or excluded) in 1998 versus 2015. However, a compensation of $175,000 for, say, Stewart Crampton ’58 is not out-of-line to the 2015 compensation of $231,000 for Bill Lenhart. In fact, that 32% increase is less than the rate of inflation!

The real change that jumps out is the huge increase in highly paid administrators. In 1998, only two non-faculty (Healy and Birrell) made the top 7 in compensation. In 2015, six of the top seven highest paid employees (Wakeman, Crosby, Klass, Puddester, Chilton, Sousa) were non-faculty.

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