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News on the Sawyer Library Project

To the Williams Community,

That loud cracking sound you may have heard over the weekend marked a longed-for thaw of the freeze on major campus construction.

Encouraged by the great educational opportunities afforded by the proposed new Sawyer Library, by the readiness of the construction plans, and by generous pledges in recent months that bring total philanthropic support for the new library to more than half of its $80 million cost, the Board of Trustees has approved my recommendation that work on the new Sawyer begin at the start of the construction season this spring.

Part of the larger Stetson-Sawyer Project, which included Hollander and Schapiro Halls, the library was put on hold when the global financial crisis hit two years ago. We will now be able to provide for the arts, humanities, and social sciences the kinds of wonderfully effective teaching and learning spaces that Schow Library affords the sciences and math. Drawings and floor plans for the project can be viewed at http://library.williams.edu/newlibrary/floor-plans.php .

The schedule anticipates opening the new Sawyer Library, to be attached to a renovated Stetson Hall, in 2014. This will be followed by the razing of the current library building and the construction in its place of a new green space that will connect Stetson/Sawyer with the Paresky Center and the Frosh Quad.

Our thanks go to the many people, led for years by Professor of Anthropology Michael Brown and College Librarian Dave Pilachowski, whose meticulous work produced such an exciting project, and to the faculty, staff, and students who have patiently endured a postponement that had been of indefinite length until this moment. And, of course, the deep gratitude of us all goes to our donors, a number of whom wish to remain anonymous at this time, for their great generosity and for their commitment to this project and this college.

The other project postponed by the recession has been the renovation of Weston Field, which is now being thoroughly reexamined to ensure that it meets the College’s needs. We’ll report more on the details of that process as they become clear.

I can’t tell you how deeply delighted I am to have on track a project as important to Williams as construction of the new Sawyer Library.

Best wishes,
Adam Falk
President

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Alignment of Senior Administration

From Adam Falk:

To the Williams Community,

I am writing to expand campus-wide a discussion I’ve begun about a topic of importance to the College: the alignment of senior administrative responsibilities.

A hallmark of Williams is the strength of its system of faculty governance. Without a doubt, this is one of its attributes that drew me here; it’s a key reason for the excellence that the College has attained. In particular, Williams has been very well served by the practice of rotating faculty into the positions of Dean of the Faculty, Provost, and Dean of the College, which embeds faculty at the center of our prioritizing and planning.

Many dedicated faculty, past and present, have done great work in these roles. They’ve done so, I’ve come to realize, despite significant drawbacks to how their positions are configured. It’s critical that the faculty in these positions be focused on advancing our top academic priorities, but unfortunately they increasingly find themselves needing to burrow into detailed administrative and management duties, which in our ever more complicated world require technical knowledge and skills. These responsibilities limit, often extensively, the time needed for strategic thinking and leadership. Meanwhile, the steep learning curves involved in these positions can make them less attractive to faculty, and the technical skills required of the Provost seem to limit its candidates to faculty in certain academic disciplines.

With the right realignment of responsibilities, I believe, we could re-focus these positions to recapture their original purpose — to think, plan, and see carried out our core academic mission.

Read more

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Falk Update on Endowment and Spending

President Falk provides an update. I have copied the entire letter below the break because the College has a nasty habit of making these documents disappear. (Can you find similar letters written by interim President Bill Wagner on the Williams website? I can’t.) Highlights:

The return on our endowment investments for the fiscal year was 11.9%. Factoring in gifts to the endowment and spending from it, this put our total funds on July 1 at around $1.52 billion, a welcome increase over its value last year, but still more than 20% lower than this time three years ago. We project spending some 5.1% of that in the current year. Although that rate is widely considered to be unsustainable over the long run, it is part of a Board-approved plan to soften, over last year and this one, the impact on Williams of the world financial crisis.

1) This is not inconsistent with the $1.6 billion number that was mentioned in June but it is less than I expected. Did various illiquid investments come in lower than Chilton expected three months ago?

2) 5.1% of $1.52 billion is $77.5 million. That is too much spending! The College continues to not take the financial crisis seriously enough. Note that Morty claimed two years ago that the plan was to spend $70 million from the endowment in fiscal year 2011. Why isn’t Williams sticking with that plan? Because the people who run Williams don’t want to cut the budget enough. Future Williams administrators will curse their profligacy.

3) This is the first time that anyone from the college has ever admitted (realized?) that 5% endowment spending is unsustainable. I have made this point over and over and over again. Glad to see that Falk recognizes my genius. (Also, I am unaware of any other elite college that admits that, over the longterm, 5% real returns are unattainable. Pointers welcome!)

4) As usual, the College ignores its debt when discussing spending rates. Williams has a $1.5 billion endowment, but we also have around $250 million in debt. So our net financial wealth is $1.25 billion. Assuming a 3% real rate of return on that would allow for $45 million in annual spending from the endowment. Williams is spending approximately $25 million more per year than it should.

As many of you know, when the financial crisis hit, the College put two building projects on hold. I remain optimistic that we’ll be able to begin work this spring on the new Sawyer Library, which we continue to seek funds for. Meanwhile, the Weston Field project is undergoing a review to make sure it’ll provide what we need at the right price. I’m optimistic about this project, too, though on a somewhat longer timeframe.

Williams is not rich enough to be able to afford major changes at Weston for years to come. I hope that Falk and the trustees adjust to this reality. Stetson/Sawyer is a tougher case.

Full letter below the break.
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The Passing of Clara Park

From Adam Falk this afternoon:

To the Williams Community,

I am sorry to inform you that Clara Claiborne Park, senior lecturer in English emerita, died on July 3. From the 1970s through the 1990s, Clara taught Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, and expository writing in ways that inspired generations of Williams students. “From the encampments of major writers, she would lead us on forays through the woods of theology, philosophy, history, and the arts,” wrote Sean Keilen ’92. “It is no surprise to me that her classes were filled not only with English majors but also with students from every other humane discipline.”

Clara’s pioneering work on women characters and female authors was hailed by her academic peers, and she reached a broader audience in articles for national periodicals from the Ladies Home Journal to The Nation. Clara received honorary doctoral degrees from Williams and from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and was awarded the prize for feature writing at the 1999 National Magazine Awards. As a speaker and writer on autism, Clara earned an international reputation. Her 2001 book Exiting Nirvana: A Daughter’s Life with Autism describes the interior of her daughter Jessy’s world, based on Jessy’s own notes and drawings.

We send deepest condolences to her family, including Clara’s husband David, the Webster Atwell Class of 1921 Professor of Physics Emeritus; her daughter Jessy, a longtime employee in the Williams mailroom; her son Paul, lecturer in English; and her daughter-in-law Deborah Brothers, who chairs the Theatre Department.

A graveside service will be held at the Williams College Cemetery on the morning of Thursday, July 8, at 10:00 a.m. A memorial service for the entire community will be held later this year.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

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News Concerning Williams-Exeter Students

To the Williams Community,

I can now update some of you and inform others about the horrible accident Sunday that has brought such grief to the Williams community. We are shocked by this sudden turn of events and need to support each other, especially those most directly involved.

Here’s what we know.

Seven of our students at the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford University (WEPO), along with two Oxford students, had organized a weekend hiking trip near the town of Frutigen in the Swiss Alps.

While walking yesterday, they were hit by an avalanche of snow, ice, and rocks. Henry Lo ’11 was swept to his death, and Amy Nolan ’11 suffered a blow to her head. Swiss rescuers responded quickly, retrieving Henry’s body and taking Amy by helicopter to a hospital in Bern. We’re told that she never lost consciousness. She was operated on yesterday, and the student who was allowed to visit her today reports that she was talking and smiling. Her parents, Cathy and Jim Nolan, professor of sociology, are now there with her.

None of the other hikers was injured. Swiss authorities activated an English-speaking response team to support them and take them to Bern, where U.S. Consulate officials were engaged.

The students have now arrived back at the Williams complex in Oxford, where they and the other Programme students are being tended to by Resident Director Tom Kohut and members of Exeter College, including the Rector, Dean, and Chaplain. The University is still in term, which ends later this month.

At this profoundly sad moment our hearts are first with Henry’s family for their sudden and devastating loss. As a parent, I can’t imagine the effect of such an occurrence. Henry was a math and religion major from Franklin Square, N.Y. His fellow students in the Programme wrote this moving tribute to him:

Henry, you transcended social boundaries – you went out of your way to show an interest in all of our lives. It was this selflessness and generosity that will stay with us. You saw our quirks and you loved us for them, just as we loved you for yours. We will remember you for so many things from your escapades on football crew dates, your WEPO Iron Chef entry of chocolate covered bacon, listening to Yeasayer and Chiddy Bang late at night, to Ice-ing and, most of all, your fantastic meals.

You made the most of your time here at Oxford: football, kickboxing, working out, wine-tasting, truly loving your academic work, not to mention all your socializing. This list only scratches the surface. To borrow some of your own words, you were not a gamer, you were a competitor. You made such a huge impression on all of us in less than a year – we all wish we could spend more time with you, get to know you even better. We can’t believe you’ve been taken from us.

As we write this, all the memories that come up make it clear how much you meant to all of us here at WEPO. You will live long in our memories.

In Memoriam,
WEPO 09-10

No plans have yet been set for any services.

Our thoughts are also with the Nolan family, including Amy’s brother David ’13, who are having to cope with such an unsettling development.

We all of us need also to support the other students on the trip, which became traumatic for them, and everyone in the Programme, since all have been emotionally affected.

The students are being wonderfully caring of each other, as we would expect in such a community, and their families also have reached out to provide mutual support. But it will take time for all of us to recover, which we should be sure to help each other do.

Meanwhile, our deep thanks go to the many people, on both continents, who’ve been involved in the response.

Sincerely,
Adam Falk
President

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Lo ’11 Killed in Avalanche

Tragic news:

To the Williams Community,

I am writing with tragic and shocking news.

Earlier today, while some of our Williams-Exeter students were on a hiking trip in the Swiss Alps, an avalanche occurred. Henry Lo ‘11 was killed and Amy Nolan ‘11 was injured.

Five other Williams students and two Oxford students were on the trip, none of them injured.

Amy, the daughter of Jim Nolan, professor of sociology, and sister of Jim Nolan ’13, has been helicoptered to a hospital in Bern, Switzerland, where the early prognosis is encouraging.

We have been in touch with the students. A Swiss police team is working with them and will get them this evening to a hotel in Bern. A U.S. Embassy official will be there.

Back in Oxford, the remaining Williams-Exeter students have been informed, and Exeter College officials are helping our resident representatives in supporting them.

We will be in touch as we learn more.

Meanwhile, our thoughts are with all involved, especially Henry’s and Amy’s families and friends.

Sincerely,
Adam Falk
President

Condolences to all.

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Williams Club in NY is Closing 5/31/10

Below is an email that was distributed to all Club members earlier today.  I am staying in one of their hotel rooms this evening and its sad to think that it will be for the last time.  I for one will miss it.

Dear Williams Club Members,
 
After nearly a century of serving our extended New York City community from our location on East 39th Street, the Williams Club will cease its own clubhouse and hospitality operations and move its membership program and related activities to the Princeton Club of New York on June 1, 2010.

Through a special arrangement reached with the Princeton Club, all Williams Club members who renew their annual memberships in the coming weeks will have the full rights of regular members of the Princeton Club, located on West 43rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues,  including full access to its membership facilities and services. The Princeton Club, which already is a base for clubs of Columbia and NYU alumni, has newly remodeled hotel, dining, meeting and athletic facilities. We hope to see a bust or image of President James A. Garfield, an 1856 graduate of Williams College, join those of Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Princeton Club’s members lounge.   Read more

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Hollander Hall

from: Adam Falk
to: WILLIAMS-STUDENTS
date: Fri, May 7, 2010 at 8:30 AM
subject: Naming the North Academic Building

To the Williams Community,

As we conclude the academic year, I am delighted to announce that the North Academic Building, completed in 2008, will from here on be known as Hollander Hall, named by Richard and Jackie Hollander in honor of their sons Jordan and Adam, both members of the Class of 2010.

The Hollanders funded the building’s construction several years ago through one of the largest gifts made to The Williams Campaign, requesting at the time that their contribution remain anonymous until their sons’ graduation.

There are at least three things to celebrate here. The most immediate is the exceptional dedication and generosity represented by this gift. Richard and Jackie have said that they made it because of the effect they could see Williams having on the lives of its students, their understanding that the building resided at the center of a thoughtful plan to enhance the College’s academic facilities, and their deep admiration for the leadership of Morty Schapiro.

We celebrate also the extraordinary teaching and learning that Hollander Hall makes possible. Classrooms, language facilities, an archaeology lab, offices that can accommodate tutorials, gathering spaces that encourage spontaneous conversation—all of these advance the kind of activities that lie at the heart of our community of learning.

Our third celebration is of the College’s commitment to environmental sustainability, as Hollander Hall, along with its companion, Schapiro Hall, earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold status.

On behalf of the countless students, faculty, and staff whose experiences will be enhanced by this remarkable structure, I deeply thank the Hollanders for this truly transforming gift to Williams.

Best wishes,
Adam Falk
President

Thanks to ’10 for the heads up. I never would have guessed this name.

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Dining Services Changes

Email below on Dining Services reprinted in full from a campus mailing. Thanks to ’10 for providing the email and for Steve Klass for letting us publish it here:


from: Stephen Klass
to: WILLIAMS-STUDENTS
date: Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 3:00 PM
subject: Message from Steve Klass and Karen Merrill Regarding Dining Services

To the Williams Community,

As an early step in the College’s reorganization process, some creative thinking about our student dining operations has resulted in a plan that both reflects the way that students use – and would like to use – the system and decreases costs.

Master planners like to say that it’s most effective to lay sidewalks after you’ve seen where the grass gets worn down, and we now have meal-count data and student input on more than three years of Paresky Center and Neighborhood System co-existence.

The new plan involves opening our most popular venue, Whitmans’, seven days (20 meals) per week plus late night. Late-night operations that currently reside in the Lee Snack Bar will move to Whitmans’. Dinner will be offered each evening until 8 p.m. there and at Driscoll and Mission. At the same time we’re working with College Council to make the ’82 Grill more comfortable and visually appealing and to offer an expanded menu and hours of operation. Details of these and additional new arrangements are listed at the end of this message.

The changes will go into effect at the beginning of the fall, when the dining operations in Dodd and Greylock will be taken out of service.

All current Dining staff in Dodd and Greylock will be reassigned based on new operational needs. We recognize that these changes may be disruptive to some of our colleagues in Dining and express our gratitude to everyone involved in making these changes possible.

We’ll host an open forum at which students can ask us questions about these changes this Thursday at the Baxter Great Hall in Paresky at 7 p.m. Read more

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A disturbing incident

A campus email has been sent, and can be read here.

(Note: this post has been edited multiple times by the author due to issues of privacy and copyright with the original posting(s). We apologize for any confusion caused.)

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New Vice President for Alumni Relations & Development

This message was sent to Students, Faculty, and Staff on April 22, 2010 by Adam F. Falk, President’s Office:

After a national search and with the enthusiastic endorsement of the Search Committee I have invited John Malcolm ’86 to join our campus community as Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development.

All who met John through the search process were impressed by his extensive experience in constituency (including alumni) relations, volunteer support, fundraising, and management. As President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles, he oversees programs that match volunteer mentors with more than 1,500 youth, almost all of whom live at or below the poverty level. At the national organization he was involved with strategic planning and in expanding significantly the private revenue available to regional programs. While at Swarthmore he organized and oversaw the most successful comprehensive campaign in the college’s history. Before joining the Development Office at Bucknell, he had served as a canvasser on the West Coast for Citizen Labor Energy Coalition/Citizen Action. After graduating from Williams he worked as a visual artist, mostly in fine oil paintings and drawings.

John’s passion for education, especially of people from underserved communities, and building support for education is infectious, and he is wonderfully thoughtful and articulate about the liberal arts and about how organizations communicate their mission and purposes. His experience in reorganizing operations will be particularly helpful as we rethink our administrative structures here at Williams.

He is as eager to be here as we are to have him. As he wrote to his new Mears House colleagues:

“My undergraduate experience at Williams shaped my adult life in fundamental ways. Coursework bolstered my belief in the importance of distributing opportunity equitably to disenfranchised populations. Involvement with issue-focused student organizations launched my interest in outreach to diverse constituencies and in designing effective organizations. Friends made at Williams comprise a surprisingly hefty percentage of the folks I’m connected with on Facebook. My expectation in returning to the College is simply that we will collectively, by creatively and effectively engaging our increasingly global and diverse alumni body, ensure similarly relevant, transformative educations for current and future Williams students.”

John will succeed Mike Reed, who has served as Interim VP, since the retirement of Steve Birrell last summer. Our thanks go to Mike as well as to the Search Committee:

Chair Mike Reed ’75, V.P. for Strategic Planning and Institutional
Diversity
Collette Chilton, Chief Investment Officer
Will Dudley ’89, Professor of Philosophy
Bill Lenhart, Provost and Treasurer
Keli Kaegi, Assistant to the President and Secretary of the College
Martha Tetrault, Director of Human Resources
Laurie Thomsen ’79, Trustee
Sarah Underhill ’80, President of the Society of Alumni

Please join me in welcoming John as he takes up his new position July 6.

Best wishes,
Adam Falk
President

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Salary freeze lifted, endowment spending limit raised

Message from the new President’s office:

Dear Faculty and Staff,

As you may know, the College has been exploring ways to build a budget for the coming year that would both meet the target for spending from endowment and provide for some level of raises.

In a bit of doubly good news, the College managed, through the efforts of many across campus, to construct a budget that met the target while providing for a raise for all continuing faculty and staff of one percent, and the Board of Trustees chose to increase the endowment spending limit in order to extend an across-the-board raise in 2010-11 to two percent.

In doing so, Trustees expressed their appreciation for the thoughtful, principled, and effective process of reorganization that the campus is engaged in, which is positioning Williams for its strongest possible future. I couldn’t agree more.

While work remains to align completely our operations with the new fiscal realities, a great deal of progress toward that goal has already been made. The Board thanks you for that as do I.

We will increase spending from endowment even further in 2010-11 to take advantage of the Early Retirement Program, which in time will save money. Some 72 percent of eligible staff and 21 percent of eligible faculty have formally expressed interest in the program. We won’t, however, know for more than a month how many will ultimately take part.

Thank you again for the impressive, collaborative way that you all are pitching in to help the College face these challenges.

Best wishes,
Adam Falk
President

(thanks to Vicarious ’83)

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First Day at Williams

To the Williams Community,

April Fools’ Day has arrived at last, bringing the most exciting day of my professional life. I’m finally able to graduate from President-elect to President of Williams!

To be sure, there is a part of me that is sad to leave Johns Hopkins, an institution I’m very fond of and where I have colleagues and friends I admire and love. But for the past six months, I have so looked forward to joining my new community, which as you already know faces such fascinating challenges and great opportunities.

I’ve taken advantage of this time—spending a day a week on campus this spring, experiencing Claiming Williams and Winter Carnival, visiting alumni groups and individual alumni on both coasts, touring the fascinating teaching laboratory that is WCMA, watching Laurie Anderson perform in the ’62 Center, taking my sons down to Amherst to cheer our basketball teams in a hostile (but still very purple) gym. I’m starting to get a feel for this marvelous place, and to see Williams through many different eyes.

I understand that in some ways these are anxious times, as our College community—and our country—adjusts to new financial realities. But, really, I can’t think of a more interesting time to join you. The choices we make now, to creatively and collaboratively readjust how Williams operates, will set the College’s course for many years to come. That’s an exciting journey and one that I believe will leave the College stronger in the end.

As both an insider and an outsider (until yesterday!), I assure you that Williams, with its relative financial strength, its tradition of collegial governance, and its extraordinary support from alumni and parents is uniquely positioned to succeed in this effort.

At the same time, we (and I love finally being able to use the word “we”) have been well served by the many thoughtful decisions made this year under the careful and steady leadership of Bill Wagner and the wise counsel of the Board of Trustees. I am deeply grateful to Bill and the Board for stewarding Williams so effectively and for making my transition so seamless and pleasant. We have also benefited during this time from the contributions of Acting Dean of the Faculty Andrea Danyluk.

My family also looks forward to being here, which won’t happen until the end of the school year. Like any father, I remain committed to attending as many of their weekend school and sports activities as possible, so I’ll be back in Baltimore many weekends for the rest of the spring. Both volleyball and lacrosse seasons are in full swing. But Karen, Briauna, David, and Alex will soon be here, where they’re ready to dive into the life of the campus, Williamstown, and the Berkshires.

Over these months, I’ve benefited from meeting a great many Williams people—here in Williamstown and far afield—and the warmth of your welcome has been extraordinary.

I’m looking forward now to getting to know the rest of you and, even more, to the learning, work, and fun we will all share as we roll up our sleeves in the months and years to come, and together make this very special college the even more remarkable institution that we aspire for it to be.

With my best wishes to you all,

Adam Falk
President

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Jamie Neal

To the Williams Community,

I am shocked and saddened to report that, while on leave from the College, Jamie Neal died suddenly at home.

Our hearts go out to her family and friends at this profoundly sad time.

Her obituary is available at http://www.shepherdfuneralhome.com/obituaries.html

Jamie came here in Fall 2006 as a member of the Class of 2010 and was most recently in residence at the College in Fall 2008. In addition to her being a member of the varsity basketball team, she will be remembered by those who knew her here as being a young woman full of life with a natural way of growing close to people.

Members of the campus community are understandably unsettled by this news. I encourage us all to be aware of who around us might be in need of our support.

A celebration of Jamie’s life is scheduled for Friday, March 26, at 11 a.m. at the First Parish Church in Duxbury, Mass.

Regards,
Karen Merrill
Dean of the College

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The Passing of Lawrence Graver

To the Williams Community,

I am sad to report the death Sunday of a much-loved member of the College community — Lawrence Graver, the John Hawley Roberts Professor of English Emeritus.

Generations of students tell of the passion for great writing inspired in them by Larry, whose humility never hid the depth of his engagement with literature and the world. He wrote of the excitement he derived when students “recognized and responded to . . . a special power inherent in the language of fiction, poetry and theater: the power to stir and give pleasure, but also to make us aware of previously unthought of possibilities of thinking feeling, speaking and existing.”

The world, too, came to appreciate the specialness of Larry’s mind. His books, which grew out of his teaching, continue to be read internationally. These include two on Samuel Beckett and “An Obsession With Anne Frank: Meyer Levin and the Diary,” a scholarly work of the first order that also became an influential trade book.

Larry was as generous with colleagues as with students. From his arrival at Williams in 1964 until well after his retirement in 1997 he seemed always to have time for you, even during his years of service as Chair of the English Department and as a member or chair of key committees.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Suzanne, the Andrew Mellon Emerita Faculty Fellow, and their daughters.

A funeral will be held Wednesday, March 3, at 12:30 p.m. at the Jewish Religious Center, followed by a private burial at the College Cemetery. A College Memorial Service will be held in mid-April.

With regards,
Bill Wagner
Interim President

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Williams Ends Need-Blind Admissions for Internationals

To the Williams Community,

Financial aid has been much on the minds of members of the Williams community as we have thought about ways to control the growth in its cost that would align with the great value we place on having a diverse community.

The process of setting the College’s price is complicated and at odds with how the world generally works. Since we live with this system every day, we tend to forget that outside of Williams and a small number of similar colleges, there may be no business or organization that charges for its goods or services only what an individual can afford to pay. That is amazing. (More so when you consider that even the top price that is charged covers only about half of what the College spends per student.)

The system has worked remarkably well. We have been able to make the benefits of a Williams education accessible to strong students from all economic backgrounds. And, while parents do make sacrifices to send their children here, when we ask them if it was worth it, 98% say yes.

As astonishing as this system already was, it became more so when a few years ago we dropped loans from all aid packages and began to admit all international students without regard to their ability to pay.

We could take those steps because our endowment had been growing at quite an amazing rate. Since that is no longer the case and apparently will not be the case again anytime soon, the College has needed to cut expenses virtually everywhere. Given the value we place on affordability, the only exception has been financial aid, which grew again this year (by about 12%) and will grow next year.

What we have explored are ways to control the growth in overall spending on financial aid that would be consonant with our commitment to broad financial accessibility. One way was to reintroduce modest loans in the aid packages of some students. Families with low incomes will still not be expected to borrow. When, beginning with the Class of 2015, we go back to something that resembles the loan program that was in place until fall of 2008, Williams will continue to be attractive to students of all incomes and we will have a wonderfully strong and diverse student body.

This will also be true as we begin to admit international students somewhat differently than we have in recent years, beginning with the class entering this fall.

Until the Class of 2006, Williams each year maintained two pools of international applicants: those who had applied for aid and those who had not. We admitted only a few who had applied for aid. All other admitted international applicants were among those who could pay the full fee. For the last several years we admitted international applicants without regard to their ability to pay. We also let the percentage of international students in the class drift up to a range of 5% to 8% (though one year it topped out at 9%); any higher would have been financially unsustainable. This enabled us to matriculate a cohort of international students with significantly more presence and diversity, to the great advantage of us all.

But as a result, the cost of international aid in the last decade rose by more than 200% (more than $4 million). In the College’s changed financial situation, that rate of growth is unsustainable. One way to reduce it would be to have fewer international students. But no one wants that and no one wants it to be the case that all of our international students are able to pay the full fee.

The way to avoid either of those outcomes is to use intelligently some form of need-awareness for international applicants. This does not mean going back to the two-pool system in place before the Class of 2006. It also does not mean that the Financial Aid Office will compute the need of each international aid applicant and the Admission Office will then admit the most desirable international applicants until the aid runs out.

The Admission Office will know which applicants have applied for aid, as it does now, but will not know the level of each applicant’s need. The office will then look at the international pool as a whole and aim to build an entering cohort that is not only academically strong but that is geographically and economically diverse and that in terms of aid approximates a rough dollar target that will begin where it is now and grow over the years at a rate slower than it has been. This new system should result in entering cohorts of international students that roughly resemble the one that we are blessed with now and at a rate of cost increase that is sustainable. When four classes have been admitted this way the increase in our international aid budget should be about $1.2 million less than it would have been. We do not expect this change to affect dramatically the pool of international applicants, which is extremely strong.

I understand how unsettling it is for many members of our community to have to contemplate altering our aid practices somewhat. Even with the changes we have adopted, however, the system by which Williams determines how much to charge aided families will still be among the most generous in the history of higher education, as it should be, and among the most amazing anywhere in the broad economy. And we will continue to serve and to benefit from a wonderful and diverse community of students.

With regards,

Bill Wagner
Interim President

My comments later.

In other news, Williams is bringing back the quota for Jewish students.

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Williams Ends No-Loans Financial Aid Policy

As predicted here, interim President Bill Wagner sent out a letter about decisions made at last week’s trustee meeting. The entire letter is below the break. Biggest news:

Williams is ending its no-loan policy.

It now seems prudent to reintroduce modest loans for some aided students, beginning with the class that enters in the fall of 2011. No current students will be affected; neither will those who enter this fall. As before, families below a certain income, and with typical assets, will not be expected to borrow at all. Others will be offered loans on a sliding scale up to a maximum size that will again be among the lowest in the country. After four classes have entered through this program, it will make available about $2 million per year.

Shocking and depressing news. Comments:

1) Note how the College buys off current students. If there really are any students interested in demonstrating some leadership when it comes to economic equality, they should fight this issue hard. Contact me if you want advice on how to challenge the powers-that-be. Williams could/should still cut millions of dollars from its budget. Why not make those cuts first before making this change?

2) If there are about 1,000 Williams students on financial aid, then this would suggest that each of them is taking out a loan of $2,000 each year, for $8,000 total over the course of their education. But some (many?) students will not be expected to take out loans. So, I expect the number to be closer to $2,500. Before Williams went no-loans, I think that the maximum expected amount over four years was around $12,000. So, this represents an improvement.

3) Now that Williams has made this change, you can bet that Amherst (and other schools?) will follow. Indeed, do you think that there were any discussions across schools ahead of time? Overlap anyone . . .

4) I am shocked that Williams would make such a change for such a (relatively) small dollar payback. $2 million per year is not a lot, in the context of the College’s total budget. And it sure seems that reversing this policy sends an unfortunate signal about what Williams really cares about. It would not be hard to gather stories from the graduates of 5 or 10 years ago about how having thousands of dollars of debt after Williams shaped, in unfortunate ways, their career choices.

5) Who is to blame? The faculty. When push comes to shove, they would rather maintain their various boondoggles like the Bolin Fellowships instead of allowing all Williams students to graduate debt free. On the good side: At least the rich kids will still graduate without any debt!

6) Sending this letter out in the middle of Dead Week, and a week after the Trustee meeting ended, is interesting. Had the Trustees not really decided everything as of last Sunday? I doubt it took a skilled writer like Bill Wagner a week to write this. I also doubt that it was specifically released while most students were away.

7) Running against this change would provide an interesting platform a two College Council co-president candidates, especially ones campaigning as outsiders.

Entire letter below. Full commentary later.
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Haiti Relief at Williams

Hat tip to Will Slack ’11:

To the Williams Community,

The devastation in Haiti and especially the horrible human suffering there have touched us all. The news has been almost heart-stopping.

No Williams students were in the country at the time but at least one student appears to have lost family members. On a special online discussion group set up for alumni, many have reported that their family members are safe but that is not true for all.

A news story about an alumnus now providing medical help there, Hernando Garzon ’84, can be read at http://www.sacbee.com/ourregion/story/2460673.html .

Students, faculty, and staff are organizing Williams-based responses. You can follow the plans and join in through http://haitirelief.williams.edu .

Many organizations are taking donations to support relief efforts, including:

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund at http://clintonbushhaitifund.org/
The American Red Cross at http://www.redcross.org
Partners in Health (Paul Farmer’s organization) at http://www.standwithhaiti.org/haiti
The Boston Foundation (where donations are being matched dollar for dollar) at http://www.tbf.org/Giving/GivingDetail.aspx?id=13244

I trust that in this time of such unimaginable human suffering we will each of us be moved to do all that we possibly can to help.

With regards,
Bill Wagner
Interim President

1) Why can’t the College create an RSS feed and/or archive of all the e-mail that goes out to all-students or other public (essentially) lists? We won’t always have Will Slack around to keep us informed! I don’t expect Williams to spam every alumnus or parent with this sort of appeal, but it should make it easier for interested alums/parents to stay informed. At some point, the College will probably do this, five years after we first suggested it. (I see that this particular letter is listed at the President’s page, but a) I would like a record of all communication like this, not just selected letters and b) there is no way (?) to be informed of new letters unless you screen scrape that page every day.

2) Garzon would make an excellent Bicentennial Medal recipient. From that article:

The images streaming from Haiti were bleak: buildings collapsing into heaps of dust and rubble, the wounded spilling into chaotic streets and hospitals too badly damaged by Tuesday’s devastating quake to treat the thousands of injured and dying.

Dr. Hernando Garzon, a Kaiser Permanente emergency physician in Sacramento, monitored the devastation and began packing his bags with sutures, antibiotics, painkillers.

“They’ll need a lot of help,” he said. “It looks like total chaos.”

On Wednesday afternoon, he was bound for Port-au-Prince, the devastated capital of the impoverished Caribbean country.

“It’s terrible. It’s a big disaster,” said Garzon, who flew out of Sacramento International Airport to join a small team from Relief International.

3) Here is the alumni discussion/e-mail group devoted to Haiti. (You will need an alumni login for access.) The fact that it has 3 posts, 14 subscribers and was last updated 11 days ago tells you all you need to know about the success of the College’s new discussion groups.

4) I think it is praise-worthy of the College to highlight Garzon’s activities and tell us about the campus community webpage about Haiti relief. But am I the only one who finds it somewhat suspect that Williams is presuming to tell me that the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund is a good place to send donations, as opposed to the dozens (hundreds?) of other charities raising money for Haiti? Wagner should have just left that part out of the letter.

5) And, even if you think that it is appropriate for the College to specify specific charities in this context, you would want the chosen organizations to be beyond reproach, the best of the best. Here are two simple tests: First, does the charity have a long history of working in Haiti and/or places like it? Second, the charity should spend a minimal amount on fund-raising and administration (especially CEO pay). Most of the money raised should be used for, you know, doing good.

I think that one of the 4 charities listed fails both these tests. How did it end up in Wagner’s letter? Follow the sleaze . . .

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From Wagner and Merrill, on Dennett/the QSU

To the Williams Community,

As some of you know, a group of students, led by the Queer Student Union and Women’s Center, have responded to the incident of graffiti last weekend in Dennett House, which was described in Monday’s all-campus e-mail. This kind of intolerant and hurtful behavior is unacceptable in our community. It harms not only those against whom it was directed, but all of us.

The student group is communicating about their response at this site: http://queer.williams.edu/?p=321 .

During their time in Hardy House today, College operations there proceeded as usual.

We, along with a few other faculty and administrators, met this evening with representatives of the group.

We support their efforts to end at Williams all behaviors aimed at intimidating or targeting people because of their gender, sexual identity, or gender expression and to build a community that welcomes and supports all.

We began this evening to work on how to advance their thoughtful and constructive ideas. It feels to us like a strong beginning.

With regards,
Bill Wagner
Interim President

and

Karen Merrill
Dean of the College

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Al Shaw

To the Williams Community,

I am saddened to report the death yesterday of one of the college’s most colorful figures, former basketball coach Al Shaw, at the age of 101.

Al earned induction into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame for his career here, which ran from 1949 to 1973. Before college athletics were separated into divisions, his 1955 team made the NCAA tournament, playing Canisius College in Madison Square Garden. Our basketball offices were long ago named in his honor.

He also helped coach football, baseball, and lacrosse here and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

For decades after retiring, he regularly trolled college offices for specimens to add to his expansive stamp collection. Until very recently, only a fool would challenge him to a game of H-O-R-S-E, so deadly was his nonagenarian two-hand set shot.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Marion, and son, John. We will relay information about a memorial service when it is known.

Regards,
Bill Wagner
Interim President

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One More Exeter Post

To the Williams Community,

I am pleased to announce that Nancy Roseman, Professor of Biology, has agreed to serve as Director of the Williams-Exeter Programme at the University of Oxford for a two-year term beginning July 1, 2010.

The Director is responsible for all aspects of the programme, including the pairing of its 26 students each year with their Oxford tutors. She will bring her experience as Dean of the College and as contributor to many College committees, including the Faculty Steering Committee and the Committee on Educational Policy. As the first natural scientist to serve as Director, she also will be looking for ways to make the programme more accessible to our science majors.

She succeeds, Tom Kohut, the Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Professor of History.

Our thanks go to them both for their willingness to serve in this role.

With regards,
Bill Wagner
Interim President

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Update re: Moore, from Wagner

To the Williams Community,

I am following up on my earlier message to you regarding Visiting Assistant Professor Bernard Moore to report that his employment at Williams is ended as of today.

His Winter Study course may proceed under the instruction of the adjuncts who were planning to teach it with him. We will inform the students enrolled in that course of its status as soon as possible. The course that he was to teach this spring has been canceled. As previously announced, arrangements have been made to complete the course that he was teaching this semester.

We have found no evidence of serious misuse on his part of College resources.

I would add that this recent turn of events has been particularly hard, quite understandably, on those students who had worked most closely with Professor Moore, and I hope that you will join me in extending them our support.

With regards,

Bill Wagner
Interim President

More information regarding Moore will be in this week’s Record. I will link to the article and add any additional thoughts of my own come Wednesday, but this news is mostly played out.

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Symposium Postponed

To the Williams Community,

I am writing to say that the symposium with members of the Congressional Black Caucus scheduled for Monday evening has had to be postponed.

The private payment of travel and accommodation for House members and their staff to attend an event requires certification by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. That group determined that the forms seeking certification for this event need to be re-filed to show that Bernard Moore is no longer involved with it. The deadline for such forms is typically 14 days before the event.

Since the symposium was meant to address important and timely issues, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the College remain eager to hold a similar event on campus in the near future.

With regards,
Bill Wagner
Interim President

While I remain hopeful that we will have some sort of event, my guess that the postponement will be indefinite. However, I have been surprised before: for example, there was this visiting assistant professor in the Poli Sci department….

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Rechtal Turgidley, Jr sees a return to previous standards …

This note by bicycle messenger this am from my old roommate:new victorians
Swart,

The Quark Island Observant carried this article today. I am reassured to see that some semblance of normalcy is returning to our lives. Isn’t that the second entry in Currier Hall?

I have passed on the brouhaha re Mr Moore to the personnel director at The Quark Island Ferry Company (he refuses to be referred to as ‘Human Resources’, feeling the term to be misleading). He assures me that this will not happen on his watch. I believe him as he is also the captain of The Spirit of Turgidley and knows his flotsam from his jetsam.

Beat Amherst!

Rechtal Turgidley, Jr
Quark Island, Maine

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Wagner on Moore

News Regarding a Visiting Faculty Member

To the Williams Community,

On Tuesday evening the College learned through a media report that someone named Ernest B. Moore had pleaded guilty in district court in the District of Columbia to charges of fraud. http://tiny.cc/gMRFc

Visiting Assistant Professor Bernard Moore confirmed to us that he was this person. We informed him that he was suspended from the College until we can understand the situation more fully.

The Political Science Department has an arrangement in place to provide instruction for the course he has been teaching this semester.

At this point, the Congressional Black Caucus Symposium, which he has helped to organize, will go ahead this Monday as planned. http://tiny.cc/Qhxas

In a tightly knit community such as ours, people are understandably eager to learn what they can about this developing situation. I will write to you again as more details emerge.

With regards,
Bill Wagner
Interim President

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Siberian Mountain Day

To the Williams Community,

This is called trying to make the most of a situation that’s far from perfect.

The weather forecast for tomorrow reads like one for the Russian steppes. But some faculty have designed their courses with the thought that classes would not be held on one of these three Fridays, and the desire to have some kind of celebration tomorrow runs deep.

Therefore I have decided to call tomorrow Siberian Mountain Day — calling on the Outing Club, student leaders, and others to devise ways for there to be safe, communal fun tomorrow, some of it even outdoors.

I’m letting you know earlier than usual because so much curricular and other planning depends on this information.

Scott Lewis will e-mail you in the morning with a revised schedule of tundra-friendly activities.

This turn of events raises another set of issues for the Calendar and Schedule Committee to consider in its review of the Mountain Day program, which was already scheduled for this academic year.

But for now let’s see how we can make tomorrow memorable despite the challenges.

With regards,
Bill Wagner
Interim President

EDIT: Bear in mind that Mountain Day cannot be next weekend – that’s family days, and many parents want to visit class. Furthermore, professors have already scheduled Mountain Day into their calendars – three bad Fridays in a row have never happened since Mountain Day was made spontaneous. I do not agree with any suggestion to push it back further.

My idea was just to cancel classes and let students do what they will. I like this compromise much better.

SECOND EDIT: Apparently our weather forecast for tomorrow is the same as that for a town in Siberia. Two points to Wagner.

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New System for Book Purchasing

Full letter is below the fold, but here’s the gist on what may be a unique system in higher education:

  1. All students will be able to pay for books @ Water Street using their Williams ID, which will charge to their term bill.
  2. All students on financial aid will not be charged, for books or for course packets, I.E. no out-of-pocket expenses for books if you are on Financial Aid and buying from Water Street.
  3. This change is cost-neutral.

The committee has been working on this for a while now, and if the reaction of one parent (who somehow sent an e-mail to the entire student body) is indicative, it will be well received. No one on aid will choose a course based on book costs, no one will have to wait in a somewhat stigmatizing line during First Days, and Water Street Books will get a lot more business, since this doesn’t apply to Amazon.

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Adam Falk, 17th President of Williams College

To the Williams Community,

On a great day for Williams, I am pleased to report that the Board of Trustees has with tremendous enthusiasm chosen as the College’s 17th President Adam Falk, Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins. Click here for the full announcement about this exciting new leader for Williams.

http://www.williams.edu/admin/president/17/

Regards,
Greg Avis ‘80
Chair of the Board of Trustees and of
The 2009 Presidential Search Committee

Record Article:
http://record.williams.edu/record/articles/seek/3603/

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Presidential Search Update

To the Williams Community,

Summer remained a busy time for the Presidential Search Committee. Since I last wrote you in June, we have followed up extensively with the most promising candidates in our impressive pool – meeting with them in person and talking with those who know them. We have also met with a number of new candidates.

The Committee will begin a conversation about a short list of finalists with the Board of Trustees, which has the responsibility of naming the next President.

How long that process will take is difficult to predict, but we still expect to be able to announce the President this fall and for him or her to begin early in 2010.

Because of the reassurance of having in place strong campus leadership under Interim President Bill Wagner, we have the flexibility to take as much time as needed to ensure the appointment of the best possible candidate.

Those of you new to the community can catch up with the search process, including learning about your colleagues on the Committee, by visiting www.williams.edu/admin/president/search.

Best wishes for the start of a new semester.

Greg Avis ‘80
Chair, 2009 Presidential Search Committee

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The Economy and the College

Created new category of “letters” for these sorts of posts. Will post more of the conversation when events stop intervening with my discussions with AU. – Will

To the Williams Community,

As we begin the new academic year, I would like to update you on the College’s financial situation.

While maintaining our commitments to academic quality, to our financial aid principles, and to avoiding layoffs, we have made good progress in meeting the challenges created by changes in the world economy. That we have been able to do so is thanks to the careful and cooperative planning of people across campus and on the Board of Trustees and to the ongoing support of our alumni, parents, and friends.

Those of you who were here last year recall that when the capital markets dropped and the recession deepened, the College took steps to slow spending immediately and revised, with the direction of the Provost’s Office, our medium-term financial plan. We also formed a faculty-staff-student Ad Hoc Budget Advisory Committee to plan how best over the next three or four years to reduce expenditures to a sustainable level, given the significant decline in our endowment.

During the spring and early summer, capital markets regained some of the enormous losses of the previous months. Despite that rebound, broad U.S. equity market returns, such as the Russell 3000, were down more than 26% from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. In our case, the return on our endowment over the same period is estimated to be about -18.4%. The final, audited figure may change slightly. After subtracting the money we spent from the endowment and adding the gifts made to it, the endowment’s value on June 30 was about $1.4 billion.

That is $400 million less than a year earlier but higher than had been predicted in the financial depths of last winter.

What does the rebound, so far, in the markets mean for Williams? It means that if markets don’t fall again, which some analysts believe could happen, and we follow through on our short- and medium-term plans to control costs, we will have made substantial progress toward achieving our goal of preserving Williams’ educational quality and accessibility.

To help smooth the effects of the economic crisis on our operations, the Board has approved spending from the endowment in the current fiscal year that represents 5.6% of its June 30 value. However, even in the medium run we cannot maintain that figure without financially endangering future students, faculty, and staff. We have to get it back to a sustainable level in as few years as possible, as previous generations have done for our benefit. This level, while not without fluctuations, historically has been roughly 5% or below.

This requires our following through on the spending disciplines we have collectively put in place.

You can find here a list of some of the College operations that will be different beginning this academic year, whether for reasons of cost control, reduced FTE, sustainability, or a combination of these. It is important that you be aware of them.

I am enormously pleased and thankful that we have found ways to control spending while supporting the finest possible education of our students.

I thank you for the roles you have played in this campus-wide planning and implementation process and for the patience I hope we all can extend to each other as we strive to do our best work with fewer resources.

All the best for a wonderful year of learning, exploring, stretching, creating, playing, reflecting, and growing – all the things that make me grateful to be a member with you of this special and strong community,

With regards,

Bill Wagner,
Interim President

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