Currently browsing posts filed under "Peers"
University Chicago President Robert Zimmer was interviewed in the Wall Street Journal:
A growing number of colleges around the nation are taking steps to protect their students from ideas and words some find hurtful or upsetting. That protection includes a broad blanket of administrative support for things like safe harbors and bias response teams designed to investigate “micro aggressions” and “micro invalidations.”
The University of Chicago has taken a different tack.
WSJ: If Richard Spencer—who attended the University of Chicago and has become a leading white nationalist—was invited to speak at the university, would you have a problem with that?
MR. ZIMMER: Faculty and students invite all sorts of people, and we don’t restrict who they invite.
I don’t invite people. We offer no restrictions to student groups and faculty. What they want to do is hear, discuss and potentially argue with the people they invite.
WSJ: So, if he was invited to speak there, you’d be OK with him coming?
MR. ZIMMER: It would be fine if he came to speak, just like if anyone else came to speak.
Uncomfortable Learning should invite Spencer to Williams. Adam Falk has, we hope, learned his lesson from the Derbyshire disaster and would not ban another speaker, would he?
The New York Times reports:
Hundreds of students at Middlebury College in Vermont shouted down a controversial speaker on Thursday night, disrupting a program and confronting the speaker in an encounter that turned violent and left a faculty member injured.
Read the whole thing. Those who don’t trust the Times can find coverage in The Boston Globe:
When Murray was unable to speak because of the protesters’ interruptions Thursday night, administrators took him to a video studio in the same building and broadcast the event online.
But some protesters began pulling fire alarms, temporarily shutting off power to the live stream. When Murray finished his speech, he left the building with Allison Stanger, professor of international politics and economics, and other college officials, but was met by a group of protesters who wore bandanas to cover their faces.
College spokesman Bill Burger said he believed they were “outside agitators” who had been barred from the event, rather than Middlebury students. Flanked by security officers, Murray, Stanger and Burger moved toward Burger’s car.
By that point, more than 20 demonstrators had gathered. One threw a stop sign with a heavy concrete base in front of the car Murray was in, and several others rocked, pounded, and jumped on the vehicle. One protester pulled Stanger’s hair and injured her neck. She was taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released.
1) What explains the disparate treatment of Murray at Williams (respectful listening) and Middlebury (violent attack) that we discussed last week? As much as I would like to credit Williams for being a higher quality institution than Middlebury, my guess is that the key explanatory factor is Trump’s election. Last year, the Alt-Right was a punchline among the elite. Today the Alt-Right runs (?) the federal government. That is going to make some people very angry. Those people can’t (?) attack Trump/Bannon/Miller. Charles Murray (and John Derbyshire) are softer targets.
2) Uncomfortable Learning should invite Murray back to Williams to give the exact same talk he was scheduled to give at Middlebury. Murray’s talk last year was about the coming revolution in social science, rather than his book Coming Apart, which was to be topic last week. Murray reflects:
A college’s faculty is the obvious resource for keeping the bubble translucent and the intellectual thugs from taking over. A faculty that is overwhelmingly on the side of free intellectual exchange, stipulating only that it be conducted with logic, evidence, and civility, can easily lead each new freshman class to understand that’s how academia operates. If faculty members routinely condemn intellectual thuggery, the majority of students who also oppose it will feel entitled to say “sit down and shut up, we want to hear what he has to say” when protesters try to shut down intellectual exchange.
That leads me to two critical questions for which I have no empirical answers: What is the percentage of tenured faculty on American campuses who are still unambiguously on the side of free intellectual exchange? What is the percentage of them who are willing to express that position openly? I am confident that the answer to the first question is still far greater than fifty percent. But what about the answer to the second question? My reading of events on campuses over the last few years is that a minority of faculty are cowing a majority in the same way that a minority of students are cowing the majority.
Sounds like he would say “Yes” to another Williams speech. Let’s invite him!
3) Uncomfortable Learning should invite Middlebury Professor Allison Strahger to Williams to talk about what it was like to be assaulted by the crowd.
I want you to know what it feels like to look out at a sea of students yelling obscenities at other members of my beloved community. There were students and faculty who wanted to hear the exchange, but were unable to do so, either because of the screaming and chanting and chair-pounding in the room, or because their seats were occupied by those who refused to listen, and they were stranded outside the doors. I saw some of my faculty colleagues who had publicly acknowledged that they had not read anything Dr. Murray had written join the effort to shut down the lecture. All of this was deeply unsettling to me. What alarmed me most, however, was what I saw in student eyes from up on that stage. Those who wanted the event to take place made eye contact with me. Those intent on disrupting it steadfastly refused to do so. It was clear to me that they had effectively dehumanized me. They couldn’t look me in the eye, because if they had, they would have seen another human being. There is a lot to be angry about in America today, but nothing good ever comes from demonizing our brothers and sisters.
4) What will Middlebury do now? President Laurie Patton has a lot of options, ranging from nothing to suspending the scores of students who prevented Murray from speaking, in violation of the Middlebury code of conduct.
5) What should Middlebury do? Needless to say, the whole situation is a nightmare, generating more bad press for Middlebury than any event in the last decade. Indeed, when was the last time that a NESCAC school had such a lousy week in the national press? (The coverage of Falk’s cancellation of Derbyshire was not nearly so negative nor so widespread.)
One option is to use this riot as an opportunity to rebrand Middlebury as the most intellectually open elite liberal arts college, the U Chicago of the NESCAC. A lot of parents (and applicants?) might find that desirable. Invite a different speaker from the right every week until the protestors get tired of protesting. Suspend any student who tries to prevent a speaker from being heard. Fire any faculty member who sought to silence views she disagrees with.
The odds of Patton (or any NESCAC president) following that course of action is low. But it sure would be interesting!
6) Professor Stanger writes:
To people who wish to spin this story as one about what’s wrong with elite colleges and universities, you are mistaken. Please instead consider this as a metaphor for what is wrong with our country, and on that, Charles Murray and I would agree. This was the saddest day of my life. We have got to do better by those who feel and are marginalized. Our 230-year constitutional democracy depends on it, especially when our current President is blind to the evils he has unleashed.
Blaming the victim much? None of those protestors voted for Trump! Blaming him for the mob that attacked her would be like blaming W.E.B. Du Bois for the Tulsa race riot of 1921.
Jeering and chanting Middlebury College students disrupted a planned talk Thursday afternoon by controversial author and lecturer Charles Murray.
Murray is the author of the 1994 book The Bell Curve, which sought to link social inequality to genetics.
As he took the stage in Wilson Hall, students booed, rose and turned their backs to the stage before reading a statement in unison. Students broke into chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Charles Murray has got to go,” and “Racist, sexist anti-gay, Charles Murray go away!”
Murray, wearing a suit and tie, stood at the lectern and waited to be heard. The shouts continued:
“Your message, is hatred; we cannot tolerate it!”
“Charles Murray, go away; Middlebury says no way!”
After about 25 minutes, and when it became clear the chants would not abate, faculty came onstage and announced plans to move the lecture to a different location. The administrators said Murray’s speech would be live-streamed so he could speak without interruption. Questions for Murray to answer could be submitted using a Twitter hashtag, they said.
Every time we members of the vast right-wing conspiracy, Eph Division, complain about leftist agitprop at the College, we should remind ourselves that Williams is probably the most conservative elite liberal arts college in the country. Of course, “conservative” in that sentence means “not extremely left wing” but the fact remains that Murray spoke at Williams last year and was given a respectful hearing. The photos tell the story:
Perhaps this means that we were wrong to criticize the Administration for arranging counter-programming to Murray’s visit last year, that the leadership of Williams is much smarter than the leadership of Middlebury (Falk is smarter than Patton?) and knew just how to defuse the situation. Or maybe is just means that Williams students, even (especially?!) the social justice warriors, are more open-minded than Middlebury students. However you slice it, Williams has less campus disruption and/or attempts to silence the “right” than any other elite liberal arts college. Hooray for us!
I would love to mock (or, even better, hack!) the process by which Amherst is choosing its new mascot. Unfortunately (!?), it seems sensible and competent. See the link (or the above chart) for details, but the whole thing is very well done. I especially liked the 145 pages of mascot suggestions and rationals. Example:
Why can’t Williams be equally transparent (and competent!) in its decision-making?
Our main hope for a disaster is that the committee, choosing from the 30 semi-finalists, selects at least one easily mockable mascot for inclusion among the five finalists, and then the students vote for that one as a joke. That is a thin reed!
Which one would you vote for if you were a Lord Jeff? (Wolves!) Which one would you prefer they choose so that we can mock them more easily? (Amethyst? Radiance?)
I would guess that most of the readers of Ephblog think pretty highly of Williams (some regular commenters excepted!). The fabled “purple bubble” doesn’t completely disappear once we graduate. But many others are more skeptical.
I recently came across a thread entitled “How many colleges are “better” than Williams?” on the DC Urban Moms message board. This question used to open discussion was “I’ll give the nod to HYPS, but where does Williams fall after them?” The thread generated lots of discussion. If you have time, you might enjoy browsing through some of the comments. Here are some of the interesting ones. We can make a good guess as to where that person went to school.
Perhaps the same commenter wrote this:
Amherst has very good placement at the top graduarwvand professional schools. I think better than Williams and Pomona, probably Swarthmore also.
That’s basically anecdotal, but an educated anecdotal from going to these schools, having friends at each of them, attending a top graduate school and reviewing a lot of resumes. I’ve hired several Amherst grads (based on their post-college education and experience) but no one from any of the other LACs,I think
You can see more after the break.
My brother forwarded a link to me this morning about Amherst’s search for a new mascot, to replace the deposed Lord Jeff. While its probably not our place here at EphBlog to get involved in the internal deliberations of the Defectors, I can’t help but hope that they pick the potential mascot highlighted in the linked article. What do you think?
Williams should be just as transparent. For example, has the percentage Williams students admitted via early decision gone up at Williams as much as it has at Middlebury?
Record op-ed writers have called for more transparency. EphBlog agrees! The simplest way to ensure transparency is to expect/require Williams to be at least as transparent about topic X as the most transparent elite college. So, if Middlebury makes public ten years of admissions data in this format, Williams ought to as well. This does not require Williams to arrange the data in exactly the same format as Middlebury does. That would be too much work! But Williams has a report that is very similar to this, one that the President/Provost/Trustees use as a basis for discussion and debate. Motto: No school more transparent than Williams.
A regular reader sent us (pdf) these details behind this year’s US News rankings. Let’s spend five days discussing them. Today is Day 5.
Our previous four day’s of discussions have hit the most important points. To summarize the highlights:
1) The gap between Williams and its competitors is bigger than it has ever been. Unless US News substantially changes its methodology (something that it has done less and less over the years), we should be safely #1 for several more years.
2) It is hard for us to be certain of the exact sources of our advantage, although faculty resources and financial resources are obviously key. How can we get more details? Recall this lovely bit of virtue-signalling from a decade ago.
Statement on College Rankings
I, and the other undersigned presidents, agree that prospective students benefit from having as complete information as possible in making their college choices.
Since college and ranking agencies should maintain a degree of distance to ensure objectivity, from now on data we make available to college guides will be made public via our Web sites rather than be distributed exclusively to a single entity.
Doing so is true to our educational mission and will allow interested parties to use this information for their own benefit. If, for example, class size is their focus, they will have that information. If it is the graduation rate, that will be easy to find. We welcome suggestions for other information we might also provide publicly.
Is that promise still operational? The Record should try and find out.
3) Any move that would increase our ranking (and would be good/neutral to the quality of the education Williams provides) should be implemented. The most important of these is decreasing the number of large lectures.
A regular reader sent us (pdf) these details behind this year’s US News rankings. Let’s spend five days discussing them. Today is Day 4.
Continuing our discussion of the underlying data, I am most suspicious of the Financial Resources information. Recall the methodology:
Generous per-student spending indicates that a college can offer a wide variety of programs and services. U.S. News measures financial resources by using the average spending per student on instruction, research, student services and related educational expenditures in the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. Spending on sports, dorms and hospitals doesn’t count.
The problem is two-fold: First, spending on dorms should count! Williams is a better college, at least partly, because our dorms are much nicer, especially the number and quality of our single rooms. A similar argument applies to our spending on sports. Second, lots of spending is suspect:
Nothing wrong with whales, of course. We are in no way Cetacea-phobes at EphBlog! However, the money spent here (which presumably helps Williams ranking) would have been better allocated to matching the financial aid awards from places like Harvard and Stanford.
2) Any thoughts on how much better Williams (93%) does in percentage of high school students in the top 10% of the class compared to colleges like Middlebury (79%) and Wellesley (80%)? This has, for years, been a strange statistic since so many high schools (especially elite prep schools) no longer report class ranks, both to decrease competition (the surface reason) and to make it easier for colleges to accept their students (the real reason). For Williams, the data looks like:
How long before US News gets rid of this component of its rankings? Middlebury, for example, no longer (pdf, page 10) reports high school ranks. Is about 80% what schools who don’t report get stuck with? Or does Middlebury report this data secretly to US News but not in its common data set?
A regular reader sent us (pdf) these details behind this year’s US News rankings. Let’s spend five days discussing them. Today is Day 3.
We talked yesterday about the importance of Faculty Resources to Williams’ dominance of the current rankings. Here are some more data points:
1) There are two components to the Faculty Resource score that don’t appear in this summary: percentage professors who a) have the highest degree in their fields and b) are full time. Any readers interested in a detailed analysis of the complete data set? The Record ought to partner with some other college papers to see how consistent elite LACs are in their reporting to US News. For example, does Williams count Winter Study instructors as faculty members? On one hand, they probably should since these instructors teach/grade required courses. But I bet that Williams doesn’t, not least because doing so would hurt these metrics.
2) Why does Williams do so well on the Faculty Resources score when compared to other elite schools? It is a mystery! We do relatively well on the percentage of classes below 20 (thanks Morty!) but (equally?) poorly on the percentage of large classes. (Are 3% of the classes at Williams above 50? That seems high.) I am also curious about the details associated with counting classes. Does a tutorial count as one class of 10 or five classes of 2?
3) What should Williams do? No More Lectures!
4) I am impressed with Amherst’s SAT scores. But are they still cheating? I think they are (pdf)!
Recall our discussions a decade ago (which, alas, I can’t seem to find). Honest college report the scores for all the students who take the SAT and all who take the ACT. Since many students take both, the data usual looks like this (from Williams).
How could it possibly be that 30% fewer students at Amherst take the SAT relative to Williams? I bet that the proportions are similar, but that Amherst cheats and does not report 30% of its SAT scores, for all those students whose ACT scores are better than their SAT scores. There is a great story here for a talented Record reporter.
A regular reader sent us (pdf) these details behind this year’s US News rankings. Let’s spend five days discussing them. Today is Day 2.
Continuing our examination of the first portion of the data:
Note the key importance of Faculty Resources. On almost all other measures, Williams is very similar to its peer group, as we would expect. From the methodology:
Faculty resources (20 percent): Research shows that the more satisfied students are about their contact with professors, the more they will learn and the more likely they are to graduate. U.S. News uses five factors from the 2015-2016 academic year to assess a school’s commitment to instruction.
Class size is 40 percent of this measure. Schools receive the most credit in this index for their proportion of undergraduate classes with fewer than 20 students. Classes with 20-29 students score second highest; those with 30-39 students, third highest; and those with 40-49 students, fourth highest. Classes that have 50 or more students receive no credit.
Faculty salary (35 percent) is the average faculty pay, plus benefits, during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 academic years, adjusted for regional differences in the cost of living using indexes from the consulting firm Runzheimer International. U.S. News also weighs the proportion of professors with the highest degree in their fields (15 percent), the student-faculty ratio (5 percent) and the proportion of faculty who are full time (5 percent).
We will look tomorrow at some of the underlying details of this score, but, to the extent that there is a single explanation as to why there is a such a big 5 point gap between Williams and its peers, Faculty Resources is the primary explanation.
By the way, recall this question:
David, can you provide one single piece of evidence that this ranking is in any way important to the college’s reputation, let alone critically important? Maybe it was in the 1980s when these rankings first came out. But I don’t think you can.
Foolish reader! If the rankings weren’t important, than how do you explain this?
A presentation by Catherine Watt, the former institutional researcher and now a staff member at Clemson University, laid bare in a way that is usually left to the imagination the steps that Clemson has (rather brazenly) taken since 2001 to move from 38th to 22nd in U.S. News’s ranking of public research universities. …
When President James F. Barker took over the South Carolina institution in 2001, he vowed in his initial interview to move Clemson into the top 20 (a distinction that many research universities covet, but few can achieve, given that most of those already in the top 20 aren’t eager to relinquish their spots). Although many people on the campus were skeptical, Clemson has pursued the goal almost single-mindedly, seeking to “affect — I’m hesitating to use the word ‘manipulate,’ ” Watt said — “every possible indicator to the greatest extent possible.” She added: “It is the thing around which almost everything revolves for the president’s office.”
That statement was among the first at Watt’s session that provoked murmurs of discomfort (and more) from the audience — there would be many more as she described the various steps Clemson had taken to alter its profile in order to improve its U.S. News standing. …
The easiest moves, she said, revolved around class size: Clemson has significantly increased the proportion of its classes with fewer than 20 students, one key U.S. News indicator of a strong student experience. While Clemson has always had comparatively small class sizes for a public land-grant university, it has focused, Watt said, on trying to bump sections with 20 and 25 students down to 18 or 19, but letting a class with 55 rise to 70. “Two or three students here and there, what a difference it can make,” she said. “It’s manipulation around the edges.”
If the rankings are not important, then why do Clemson (and dozens of other schools) go to so much trouble to manipulate them?
Some of our snottier readers may mock Clemson for this manipulation, but such mockery just demonstrates their naivete. Consider Williams class sizes this fall. Example:
You think that the English department made a careful study of the optimal size of 100-level classes and just happened to decide that 19 or fewer was best for our students? Ha! President Morton O. Schapiro wanted Williams to be #1 in US News and he decreed that, to the greatest extent possible, class sizes should be fewer than 20. His legacy lives on.
Not that there is anything wrong with that!
A regular reader sent us (pdf) these details behind this year’s US News rankings. Let’s spend five days discussing them. Today is Day 1.
1) The most important data point here is the huge gap between Williams and Amherst. (Thanks to our regular reader for pointing this out.) Recall the methodology:
To arrive at a school’s rank, U.S. News first calculated the weighted sum of its standardized scores. The final scores were rescaled so that the top school in each category received a value of 100, and the other schools’ weighted scores were calculated as a proportion of that top score. Final scores were rounded to the nearest whole number and ranked in descending order.
Exercise for the reader: Assume that by “standardized,” US News means that they take the mean and subtract the standard deviation, leading to sub-scores that are N(0, 1). How much does Williams have to be leading the other schools in various categories for it to have a 5 point lead in the overall ranking based on 100?
2) Note how well Williams does in the Peer Assessment and High School Guidance Counselor rankings. Note the circularity that this can generate. Williams has been ranked #1 by US News for 14 years. What sort of high school guidance counselors are likely to fill out a random questionnaire from US News? The sorts that care about the US News rankings. What sorts of schools are they likely to rank high? Schools that they have read about before in US News! Williams could, in truth, become a horrible school tomorrow and, for years, these counselors would rank it highly.
3) For giggles, not this part of the methodology:
To reduce the impact of strategic voting by respondents, U.S. News eliminated the two highest and two lowest scores each school received before calculating the average score.
Watt said that Clemson officials, in filling out the reputational survey form for presidents, rate “all programs other than Clemson below average,” to make the university look better. “And I’m confident my president is not the only one who does that,” Watt said.
If such strategic voting is widespread, it is not clear if eliminating just four outlier scores will be enough to fight it.
Williams is #1 in the US News ranking for the 14th year in a row.
The 2017 Best Colleges rankings are out from U.S. News & World Report — and there are some familiar schools in the top slots. For the sixth straight year, Princeton University was named No. 1 in the “best national universities” category by the magazine, which surveys more than 1,800 colleges in America for its annual list. Meanwhile, Williams College in Massachusetts took the top spot among best national liberal arts colleges for the fourteenth consecutive year.
1) Every time that Williams appears in a headline like this with Princeton, the value of the Williams brand improves. Kudos to Adam Falk and the rest of the administration! There are few things more important (rightly or wrongly) to the College’s reputation, especially with international applicants and their families, then maintaining this ranking. Staying #1 may not be hard, given Williams’ resources, but screwing this up could have been easy.
2) Many schools do a lot of suspect/sleazy things to improve their rank. Does Williams? Morty, infamously, capped discussion class size at 19 to ensure that the maximum number of classes met this US News cut off.
3) There is a great senior thesis to be written about the rankings, similar to this article on the US News law school rankings. If you write such a thesis, hundreds of people around the country will read it.
Free speech is at risk at the very institution where it should be assured: the university.
Invited speakers are disinvited because a segment of a university community deems them offensive, while other orators are shouted down for similar reasons. … In many cases, these efforts have been supported by university administrators.
Indeed. Falk was supported by Dean Bolton and many (most? all?) other Williams administrators. Note also the six (!) usages of some version of “comfort”
A university should not be a sanctuary for comfort … Demands are made to eliminate readings that might make some students uncomfortable. … Some assert that universities should be refuges from intellectual discomfort and that their own discomfort with conflicting and challenging views should override the value of free and open discourse. … Universities cannot be viewed as a sanctuary for comfort … Having one’s assumptions challenged and experiencing the discomfort that sometimes accompanies this process are intrinsic parts of an excellent education.
Echos of Robert Gaudino’s claim that “uncomfortable learning” should be at the center of a Williams education. Recall that Gaudino’s Ph.D. was from Chicago. Is there a connection?
[Post edited after publication.]
From The New York Times:
Scott MacConnell cherishes the memory of his years at Amherst College, where he discovered his future métier as a theatrical designer. But protests on campus over cultural and racial sensitivities last year soured his feelings.
Now Mr. MacConnell, who graduated in 1960, is expressing his discontent through his wallet. In June, he cut the college out of his will.
Hey, Biddy! When you are so left wing that you have lost the theatrical designers, you might have a problem.
“As an alumnus of the college, I feel that I have been lied to, patronized and basically dismissed as an old, white bigot who is insensitive to the needs and feelings of the current college community,” Mr. MacConnell, 77, wrote in a letter to the college’s alumni fund in December, when he first warned that he was reducing his support to the college to a token $5.
“Old, white bigot” is an accurate description about how the people behind Amherst Uprising feel about you and every other Amherst alum who objects to their Year Zero transformation of your alma mater. Comments:
1) There is enough meat in this article for a week of quotes and comments. Worth it?
2) No mention of Williams! A good thing — because Williams is handling current controversies better than schools like Amherst — or a bad thing because we want any article that mentions Yale to mention Williams?
A backlash from alumni is an unexpected aftershock of the campus disruptions of the last academic year. Although fund-raisers are still gauging the extent of the effect on philanthropy, some colleges — particularly small, elite liberal arts institutions — have reported a decline in donations, accompanied by a laundry list of complaints.
3) Any word on changes in donations to Williams? None that I have heard.
4) Any speculation as to the reasons why Williams suffers less turmoil? The Administration might like us to believe that they are better maintaining a calm/happy campus than their counterparts at Amherst/Yale are, but I doubt that that is the explanation. More likely is that Williams is today, as it has always been, among the most “conservative” — or, better, “least leftist” — among elite LACs, both in terms of the students it attracts and its campus culture. Other opinions?
5) My sources report that the most common political question Falk gets at alumni meetings concerns the self-inflicted wound of the Derbyshire cancellation. Can any readers provide reports from their local events?
Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.
[Emphasis added.] The most prominent cancellation of a controversial speaker at an elite college was, of course, President Falk’s cancellation of John Derbyshire. Questions:
1) Do you think the author of the Chicago letter had Williams in mind?
2) Has Williams sent out anything like this to incoming first years? I doubt it. Should it? You betcha!
3) EphBlog, while sadly a pale shadow of its former self, is starting to become a useful place for discussion. See this comment (in a dead thread) which jump started a 20 comment back-and-forth discussion about the Chicago letter. Kudos to participants like sigh, Trigger, anon-liberal and anon, all of whom make good points in the spirit of open discussion and debate.
If I were a Trustee I would ask President Falk why Williams itself does not provide a forum on which students, alumni and faculty might discuss these issues.
Williams is #2 on the Forbes listing of top colleges.
1) Any list with us between Stanford and Princeton, and with no other liberal arts colleges in the top 6, is a good list for Williams.
2) I suspect that the Forbes list is, substantively, mostly garbage. First, they do not (corrections welcome) make their criteria transparent. You should never trust any research which is not honest and open about its methodology. Second, some of the claims defy belief. Wesleyan at #9, the third highest LAC on the list? No way! There are no (reasonable) criteria of educational excellence on which Wesleyan is above Swarthmore and (it pains me to admit) Amherst.
3) Kudos to the College for ending up #2 on the list, even if the criteria is garbage. Williams needs to improve its brand among elite students, especially internationally, and these results can only help.
The official Colby College magazine covered the topic of free speech on campus.
A flood of incidents at institutions ranging from huge land-grant universities to small liberal arts colleges is growing into a conflict between “politically correct” culture and freedom of speech. The swift reaction has been passionate. Some warn of suppression of speech, while others welcome the shift toward a more sensitive culture as a needed adjustment in an increasingly intolerant world. Still others complain that such increased “tolerance” is itself a form of intolerance.
A recent national survey revealed that while most college students believe their campus environment should expose them to diverse viewpoints, a large majority also believes that schools should be allowed to restrict intentionally offensive language. And 54 percent of students recently surveyed by the Knight Foundation and Gallup said the climate on campus prevents some people from saying what they believe, because others might find it offensive.
But can colleges monitor and restrict slurs and hate speech while also protecting free speech and the give and take of ideas in what is, after all, an academic and intellectual space? In Colby’s tight-knit community, the conversation is just getting started. “We need to be very clear about our values when it comes to issues around freedom of speech and around respect and civility,” said President David A. Greene. “These things can coexist.”
Read the whole thing. Do you think that the Williams Magazine will cover the debate on this topic at Williams? I have my doubts. The Colby author writes:
As the conflict spread, Williams College canceled two right-wing speakers who were invited to campus as part of the college’s “Uncomfortable Learning” series.
1) It is interesting to see how (sympathetic!) observers portray the events of the last year at Williams. EphBlog readers know, of course, that “Williams College” did not really cancel two speakers. The students cancelled Venker and Falk banned Derbyshire. And yet, to Colby alumni, it will appear (correctly?) that there is less free speech at Williams than there is at any other NESCAC school.
2) At Colby there is a student Republican group. At Williams, there is not. Why? Should we be worried?
3) Always nice to see Robert Gaudino’s catchphrase, “Uncomfortable Learning,” get mentioned elsewhere.
4) Entire tenor of the article is remarkably restrictionist. They don’t quote — because they can’t find — a single faculty member or administrator who believes that speech at Colby should be at least as free as speech at the University of Maine.
So, I guess the answer to “Can we talk?” will be, in a few more years, “Only if you don’t say anything that upsets from from the right.” Or am I too pessimistic?
CRIMSON: From what psychologists know, is there ample evidence to support the hypothesis that a difference in “innate ability” accounts for the under-representation of women on science faculties?
PINKER: First, let’s be clear what the hypothesis is—every one of Summers’ critics has misunderstood it. The hypothesis is, first, that the statistical distributions of men’s and women’s quantitative and spatial abilities are not identical—that the average for men may be a bit higher than the average for women, and that the variance for men might be a bit higher than the variance for women (both implying that there would be a slightly higher proportion of men at the high end of the scale). It does not mean that all men are better at quantitative abilities than all women! That’s why it would be immoral and illogical to discriminate against individual women even if it were shown that some of the statistical differences were innate.
Second, the hypothesis is that differences in abilities might be one out of several factors that explain differences in the statistical representation of men and women in various professions. It does not mean that it is the only factor. Still, if it is one factor, we cannot reflexively assume that different statistical representation of men and women in science and engineering is itself proof of discrimination. Incidentally, another sign that we are dealing with a taboo is that when it comes to this issue, ordinarily intelligent scientists suddenly lose their ability to think quantitatively and warp statistical hypotheses into crude dichotomies.
As far as the evidence is concerned, I’m not sure what “ample” means, but there is certainly enough evidence for the hypothesis to be taken seriously.
For example, quantitative and spatial skills vary within a gender according to levels of sex hormones. And in samples of gifted students who are given every conceivable encouragement to excel in science and math, far more men than women expressed an interest in pursuing science and math.
CRIMSON: Were President Summers’ remarks within the pale of legitimate academic discourse?
PINKER: Good grief, shouldn’t everything be within the pale of legitimate academic discourse, as long as it is presented with some degree of rigor? That’s the difference between a university and a madrassa.
Is Williams a college or a madrassa? Adam Falk, and (a majority of?) the faculty have decided that certain ideas may not be discussed on campus, that certain views are “hate speech.” Indeed, students who believe these things — or just want to hear those views from a published author who has spoken at places like the University of Pennsylvania and whose books are available in Sawyer Library — may very well be guilty of “hate speech” themselves, and therefore subject to discipline under the College’s Code of Conduct.
What is it about sombreros and NESCAC that generates such controversy? From the Washington Post:
On Saturday, two members of Bowdoin College’s student government will face impeachment proceedings. What heinous transgression did they commit? Theft, plagiarism, sexual assault?
Nope. They attended a party where some guests wore tiny sombreros.
Two weeks ago, some students threw a birthday party for a friend. The email invitation read: “the theme is tequila, so do with that what you may. We’re not saying it’s a fiesta, but we’re also not not saying that :).” The invitation — sent by a student of Colombian descent, which may or may not be relevant here — advertised games, music, cups and “other things that are conducive to a fun night.”
Those “other things” included the miniature sombreros, several inches in diameter. And when photos of attendees wearing those mini-sombreros showed up on social media, students and administrators went ballistic.
College administrators sent multiple schoolwide emails notifying the students about an “investigation” into a possible “act of ethnic stereotyping.”
1) It would be fun to read those e-mails. Could any Bowdoin readers copy and paste in the comments?
2) This is at least the third (!) sombrero-related controversy to hit NESCAC. The first was our own Taco Six. There was a similar “scandal” at Middlebury, although I am hazy on the details.
3) Never too late to create the Eph Style Guide!
Professor and Provost Will Dudley ’89 has been appointed president of Washington and Lee. Full e-mail from Adam Falk below the break. Comments:
1) Congrats to Will, a longtime friend (or, at least, frenemy) of EphBlog.
2) This opens up the race to succeed Falk. Dudley, because of his insider status and great alumni connections was always the favorite, especially since Williams has a history of following outsider presidents (like Falk) with insiders.
3) Washington and Lee (ranked #14 by US News) is a much more prestigious (and well-endowed) institution than Wooster (Bolton) and Dickinson (Roseman), much more the sort of school that top Williams administrators go to. Or maybe that was just true historically and now the competition for college presidencies is much tougher?
4) From the news article:
W&L, a school that traces its heritage to President George Washington and was led by Gen. Robert E. Lee following the Civil War, has sometimes struggled to reconcile its rich history with current-day issues of race and diversity. Displays of the Confederate flag at Lee Chapel, where Lee is interred, have generated controversy.
Like the 26 presidents before him, Dudley is a white male.
“At the very front end of the process, we were conscious of that,” Owens said in response to a question about how a desire for diversity influenced the school’s search.
Women and minorities made the short list, he said, “but at the end of the day, we chose somebody that was going to be the best candidate for W&L.”
I would suspect that the Black Lives Matter folks would have serious complaints about a school named after a slave owner (Washington) and a confederate general (Lee). If I were Dudley, I would do everything I could to ensure that black students at W&L were of comparable academic quality to non-black students. There is no better way to create a militant BLM movement on campus that excessive affirmative action and the academic mismatch which inevitably follows.
5) Was Bolton (also on the market over the last year) on the short list at W&L?
6) Most interesting decision that Dudley faces? I would go with fraternities/sororities, which 80% (!) of W&L students participate in. Was Will asked about this? Did he offer any thoughts? Williams College is, of course, famous for being the first (?) elite liberal arts college to get rid of Greek Life, more than 50 years ago. I bet that Dudley thinks that Williams made the right choice then. If so, what choice should W&L make today?
Grade inflation is a problem at Williams, one we have discussed many times in the past. Start here for a good introduction. The most annoying aspect of the debate is the refusal by Williams to make the data public, or at least available to students and alumni.
Here are the grade distributions at Middlebury.
The average grade at Middlebury has increased from 3.32 to 3.53 in 11 years. How much higher will it go in the future?
Why can’t Williams be as transparent as Middlebury when it comes to this important topic?
Saw the following today, thought others might be interested in seeing what’s going on at other schools in our neck of the world: UMass students — fed up with professors preaching anti-Americanism — demand ‘intellectual diversity’ .
The petition itself is available here. What I find fascinating is that the title of the article uses the word ‘demand’, which appears no where in their petition. They use words such as ‘petition’, ‘urge’ and ‘suggest'; it is written in a very different tone than other recent petitions (such as this one from Oberlin).
The New York Times covers Amherst’s decision to, sort of, eject Lord Jeffery. Comments:
1) Best part is the correction:
An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of the colonial commander for whom Amherst College is named; it is Lord Jeffery Amherst, not Jeffrey.
The Times reports, as undisputed fact, that Amherst is “named” after Lord Jeffery Amherst. Note that the Trustees at Amherst disagree:
The town of Amherst was named after Lord Jeffery, and the College was named after the town.
Well, which is it? Perhaps some of our historian readers (dcat?) could help us out.
2) Diversity is the godhead, not only at Williams, both also at Amherst and the New York Times.
The institution, which is one of the most diverse private colleges in the nation
One can make a factual claim that Amherst is, for example, one of the most expensive colleges in the country. Tuition is measured in dollars. But how is “diversity” measured? What makes Amherst more (or less) diverse than Bates/Middlebury/Williams/wherever? This is an honest question! I suspect that, for the Times, “diversity” means “least white.” Does someone have a better definition?
(Entire article is below the break.)
This letter from the Amherst Trustees is not — How to put this kindly? — a model of clear writing.
Dear Members of the Amherst College Community,
During the past several months President Biddy Martin and the members of the board of trustees have had scores (all right, hundreds) of communications from alumni, students, and others about the matter of Lord Jeffery Amherst. The communications reflect and embody many points of view. A lot of them begin with something like the following: “I know there are far more important issues facing the College, but….”
And I agree—with the first part of the sentence and also with the “but.” The controversy over the mascot may seem small in itself and yet in many minds it’s symbolic of larger issues. The controversy is bound up with feelings about matters as specific and recent as the protests at the College last fall and as broad and old as the College’s mission and values. It’s bound up with personal memories and personal experience. I’ll come back to the mascot shortly, but the larger issues deserve some recognition first.
Get to the point! Is it too much to ask that, somewhere in the first two paragraphs, the trustees might tell us what their decision is? Will Amherst continue to use “Lord Jeffs” as a nickname/mascot or won’t it? After several hundred words, we finally get to:
Lord Jeff as a mascot may be unofficial, but the College, when its own resources are involved, can decide not to employ this reference in its official communications, its messaging, and its symbolism (including in the name of the Inn, the only place on the campus where the Lord Jeffery name officially appears). The Board of Trustees supports such an approach, and it will be College policy
Split the baby, Solomon! By claiming (correctly?) that “Lord Jeff” is unofficial, Amherst allows (encourages?) its continued use by the whole world. Consider a typical article from last week:
The Jumbos saw their five-game unbeaten streak broken the day before with the loss to the Amherst Lord Jeffs at home.
If the people at Tufts (and Bates and Williams and . . .) continue to refer to the “Lord Jeffs,” then it doesn’t really matter if the Amherst Trustees have primly turned up their sensitive noses to its usage. If everyone — include Amherst athletes (and coaches? and fans?) — continues to use “Lord Jeffs,” then the Trustees have accomplished nothing but to assuage their own consciences and to infuriate the social justice warriors on their own campus.
Should I spend a week fisking the letter or is this topic too boring to bother?
This provides Adam Falk (and Williams coaches) with some outstanding trolling opportunities! Whenever interviewed by NESN or any media outlet, always use the term “Lord Jeffs” when describing the opponent.
Entire letter before the break, saved for posterity.
Dinesh D’Souza speaks at Amherst. (Hat tip to Ace of Spades.)
Love the part where the audience giggles when D’Souza quotes Martin Luther King. Stay classy Amherst!
Here is an account of last week’s events from an Amherst parent about the experience of his son at the library sit in.
His main observation of the original sit-in was that people seemed to have enormously negative experiences as persons of color on campus and he found that surprising. He reported that people talked about their life at Amherst as, say, a black female, being a living hell, one that my son found hard to jibe with the general intolerance in the classroom for even an ambiguously racist comment.
Indeed. This is a common reaction among white/Asian students.
One thing my son reported was that there were a lot of threats made against white students who somehow were not present in the library at the sit-in, as if non-presence at an unannounced event was somehow in and of itself racist. The general tone of the discussion was very authoritarian — everyone should be forced to be here, everyone should be forced to take diversity courses, etc.
Correct. We saw the same thing at Williams during Stand With Us in 2008.
A sleepy New England town was not so sleepy late last Wednesday night, as hundreds of students, faculty and staff poured from a packed Baxter Hall into the Williamstown streets, loudly promoting Stand With Us’ message of respect. That the movement — and this rally in particular — has galvanized much of the campus is undeniable. Yet for all the good energy that poured forth on Wednesday, a little bad energy seeped through as well, and threatened to add a tinge of dissatisfaction to an otherwise successful evening.
This dissatisfaction is due in large part to how a few members of the march handled students studying in Schow that night. In several instances those in the library that didn’t join in were yelled at and made to feel uncomfortable. Some who did not immediately stand with the rest of the group were intimidated into doing so.
Funny how these protests move so quickly from complaints about oppression to confrontations with other students.
The protesters are so lame that they declare victory when their demands are “acknowledged.” Pathetic. And after I offered them some genius advice! Pearls before Jeffs . . .
Below the break is a copy of their most recent letter, an embarrassing climb down from their initial demands. Key section:
As an important note, the movement, both at its inception and now, by no means intends to stifle free speech. Such allegations are misinformed and misguided.
What gibberish! Their web page still demands:
President Martin must issue a statement of support for the revision of the Honor Code to reflect a zero-tolerance policy for racial insensitivity and hate speech.
If you don’t think that honor code requirements to avoid “racial insensitivity” stifle free speech, then you might just be dumb enough to go to Amherst! Here is a concrete example:
At Amherst, the average math + reading SAT scores of male Asian-American students is more than 150 points higher than those of male African-American students.
This isn’t racial sensitive but it is, for good or for ill, the truth. Would Amherst Uprising protest against an Amherst professor who mentioned this fact in class? I bet they would!
Recent letter from Amherst Uprising below the break.
Continuing our analysis of President Biddy Martin’s statement:
And the administration will ensure that no students, faculty, or staff members are subject to retaliation for taking advantage of their right to protest.
Did an Amherst lawyer vet this? What an absurd (and dangerous) promise to make! “Right to protest” is a very different thing than the right to free speech. I am writing this prior to the events, if any, on Wednesday, but hasn’t Martin given the students carte blanche — Is that word a micro-agression?! — to do anything they want, short of violence? Imagine students protest by shutting down the presidents office (or the presidents house!) by refusing to leave. Martin has just guaranteed that they won’t be punished? What if they occupy the two or three largest lecture halls on campus, thereby preventing classes from meeting there? Again, they can’t be punished!
Amherst has committed itself to equal opportunity for the most talented students from all socio-economic circumstances.
The College also has a foundational and inviolable duty to promote free inquiry and expression, and our commitment to them must be unshakeable if we are to remain a college worthy of the name. The commitments to freedom of inquiry and expression and to inclusivity are not mutually exclusive, in principle, but they can and do come into conflict with one another. Honoring both is the challenge we have to meet together, as a community.
“Inclusivity,” thy name is “Speech Code.” Either Amherst students have the same free speech rights as UMass students or they don’t. Which is it? Getting clarity on that point (at least for Williams College) is perhaps the most important issue in this debate. What do our readers think?
Those who have immediately accused students in Frost of threatening freedom of speech or of making speech “the victim” are making hasty judgments.
If I were an Amherst trustee, I would be reaching for George Orwell right about now, and wondering if I can trust Martin to be truthful. The protesters have demanded punishment for other Amherst students whose only “crime” was to put up posters about free speech. If this isn’t “threatening freedom of speech,” then words have no meaning.
It takes time, attention, and serious discussion to sort out and make clear how we protect free speech while also establishing norms within our communities that encourage respect and make us responsible for what we do with our freedom. That is the discussion we need to have.
Does Amherst have a history of left wing presidents? President Martin, like President Marx before her, is certainly more stridently leftist in her pronouncements (and career?) than any Williams president.
You heard it here first: Why not rename Amherst? The student protesters don’t like the Lord Jeff mascot because Lord Jeffrey Amherst fought the King’s enemies in ways of which they disapprove. They want a new mascot. Fine. But the college would still be called Amherst! (I am hazy on whether this Amherst (the town?) is also connected to Lord Jeffrey.) So, why not solicit a gift for a billion dollars or so from some really rich megalomaniac and rename Amherst after him? Everybody wins!
And I even have a candidate: Weill College, after Citigroup’s Sandy Weill. This is perfect because a) Biddy Martin has raised money from Weill before, b) Weill has (at least?) a billion dollars and c) the Weills have tried before to get a college named after them.
Here is President Biddy Martin’s statement. First, why write 100 words when you can write 1,400? Second, are we allowed to make fun of President Martin’s first name? If “Biddy” isn’t the most WASPy name among elite liberal arts college presidents, then my name is David Dudley Field! Highlights:
The organizers of the protests also presented me with a list of demands on Thursday evening. While expressing support for their goals, I explained that the formulation of those demands assumed more authority and control than a president has or should have.
Hmmm. This might be a good strategy in that, if the President really can’t do thing X, then how can the protesters demand that she does? But, like the teller reporting to the bank robber that there is no money in the till, it is risky. First, college presidents are, on some dimensions, fairly powerful. There is a lot that Biddy can, in fact, do. Second, if she really does “support” the goals (and the demands?), then she is just passing the buck to whomever (the trustees? the faculty?) actually run the College. If I were an Amherst trustee, I would want Biddy to take responsibility for saying “No” to these brats. I would not want them bothering me.
Our students’ activism is part of a national movement of students who are devoted to bringing about much-needed change. They are exercising a fundamental American right to freedom of speech and protest.
Do students have free speech rights at Amherst? FIRE says No, giving Amherst a Yellow Light rating. (Sadly, Williams gets a Red Light.) I ask this question in all seriousness. Compare Amherst to UMass. Students at the latter have free speech, due to a long line of court decisions outlining that no part of the government, including state colleges, may violate the First Amendment. But those cases do not apply to private colleges like Amherst? So, is there something that a UMass student could say without fear of university retaliation but which would, if said by an Amherst student, result in punishment?
Deadline for our friends at @UprisingAmherst is midnight tomorrow. What should they do when their demands are not meant? Simple:
Slogan: “End Lectures As Normal.” This is supposed to be a play on “End business as usual.” Does it work? Suggestions welcome!
Goal: Stop all large lecture classes from meeting together in their usual lecture halls. I don’t know enough about Amherst to target specific classes/rooms, but there must be some, probably fewer than a dozen, with more than, say 40 students.
Method: Have at least one student (or, ideally, two or more) go to the lecture hall a few minutes before the start of class. Stand at the front of the room at the podium. Start reading aloud material relevant to the Amherst Uprising movement. Content does not actually matter but more relevant is better. You are like a filibustering Senator, so even just reading a compilation of all the supportive letters/emails you have received is fine. The important thing is that you are, non-violently, taking over that lecture hall and freely speaking about what matters to you and what should, indeed, matter to everyone at Amherst. And you are not going to stop talking, even if the professor asks you to, even if she just wants to start class, even if the students start to complain. You are standing witness. You will not be silenced.
Result: The professor will have no choice but to cancel and reschedule class. And that is OK! Your goal is not to prevent the students from hearing a lecture in Statistics 111. You goal is to prevent “lectures as usual.” Since this large lecture hall is not available — and since Amherst Uprising will be speaking witness in all large lecture halls until further notice — the professor will have no choice but to say to the class:
“We need to reschedule this large lecture into 4 smaller sections that will meet in a smaller classroom at these four times. Please attend one of them.”
In fact, you are available to help the professor with this process by providing her with a list of smaller classrooms, their seating capacity and their current availability. In fact, you have already prepared a possible schedule for her!
Result: No student is hurt. (A few may be slightly inconvenienced by having their classes meet at different times/locations.) If anything, students are better off. A discussion section of 20 is a much better way to learn statistics than a lecture of 80. Yet the professors are very annoyed. They don’t want to quadruple their teaching time. They like large lectures.
Unfortunately, as much as you probably like these professors, you have to annoy them. You have to (non-violently and using your free speech rights) make their lives difficult enough that they will force the Administration to change. It is very hard for you to get President Martin to do what you want. It is much easier for a group of inconvenienced Amherst professors to do so. Force them to only teach students in classes of 30 or smaller, and they will do whatever is necessary to make your protest go away.
Even better, it is hard/impossible for the professors to complain to you. After all, many of them have sent you letters of support! They are on your side. And you are not preventing them from doing their jobs. They can still teach their classes, as long as they do so in smaller settings.
Pushback: Might the Administration come down hard against you? We should be so lucky! You are non-violent. You are doing nothing but speaking. You are even providing convenient lists of alternate times/locations where classes can occur. How can they attack you? And, even if they do, what are their options? Send in security? You then refuse to move; link arms; go limp. You use all the best non-violent tricks to stand your ground. Are they going to call the Amherst police? Arrest you? If they did that, hundreds of students would rally to your side. Your movement would be unstoppable.
President Martin is smart, so she would see the futility of using security and/or the police to force you out.
Summary: Your biggest leverage point is the faculty. You are not powerful enough to force substantive change. Students never are. But the faculty is. You need to force — non-violently and cleverly — the faculty to force the Administration to agree with your demands. Preventing them from lecturing, while allowing them to teach the same material in small groups, is your best strategy.
Good luck! Your friends at EphBlog wish you nothing but success.
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