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Haughty

From a recent comment thread:

This is an interesting topic. I went to Williams for undergrad, then sequentially to a Midwest state flagship and Harvard for graduate studies.

Of the three, Williams had by far largest number of cocky, arrogant blowhards. My analysis of this is as follows: The state flagship students were fairly middle-class and quite comfortable with their place in the world. The Harvard students were understandably confident with their status, not boastful about it, and not condescending toward other institutions. The Williams students often made fun of the ivy leagues and looked down on state and similar (i.e. NESCAC) schools. It reeked of jealousy and bitterness.

I am not, and never have been, particularly proud of being a Williams alum. I hardly mention it. Compared to what I have accomplished since being at Williams, it just doesn’t matter. I don’t understand why middle-aged alums are spending so much time on this blog obsessing about Williams! Get on with your lives people! I think Williams was probably the only place in my life where I felt out of place, insecure, and looked down upon by haughty people. By the attitude and content of the comments in general on this site, I’m not surprised that that was the way I felt at the time. DDF and others wouldn’t be impressed with whatever my AR was – or my family – but I have done quite well – probably better than most white, rich AR1’s – who were most likely the people who made me feel like crap while I was at Williams.

1) Anecdotes are not data, but if you think that Harvard (or Yale/Princeton/Stanford) does not have as many (more?) “cocky, arrogant blowhards” as Williams, then I think you are mistaken. Contrary opinions welcome!

2) What could Williams have done differently — or what could it do in the future — to make you “proud of being a Williams alum?” All readers who don’t feel proud are welcome to chime in!

3) What could Williams have done differently — or what could it do in the future — to make you feel less “out of place, insecure, and looked down upon by haughty people?” Or, perhaps better, how do you recommend we turn the haughty Ephs into better versions of themselves? My answer is First Month. The better you know someone, the less likely to are to look down on them. What do readers suggest?

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“Williams Students are so Annoying!”

I chanced upon this complaint just the other day. Curious (and partially offended, as affection for one’s alma mater affects even me), I asked for some elaboration. The friend of mine, who attends another respected liberal arts college and didn’t know I attend Williams, responded:

“They’re arrogant. Whenever their team shows up to multi-school events, they think they can coast by on brand-name and being kinda smart. They’re so exclusive, too!”

or something like that.

I told them I was one of those students. The blush on their face was something to behold! I needn’t fear, they said, I’m not like the average student they had met.

Fair enough. But it got me thinking–do I really disagree with them? They’re not stupid, and the stereotype of the Williams jock had to emerge from somewhere. Personally, I do smell a scent of smugness in the purple bubble. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. I get along well with the Williams marathoner, the mathematician, the musician, or any commingling of the personalities present. It’s more just a certain narrow-mindedness.  We appreciate how Williams College shapes the world, but we simultaneously neglect how much the world shapes Williams College.

I don’t think this mindset is as pronounced in other liberal arts campuses. That thought is subject to change, however.

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There are Hundreds of Rejected AR 1s

Some readers doubted whether or not there were enough high quality applicants (currently) rejected by Williams who could be admitted as part of this plan. Allay those fears! There are hundreds of rejected AR 1s (and even more AR 2s) who would love to attend Williams if we were to accept them. Evidence:

Recall the 2005 Recipe (pdf) article:

The admission staff wait-listed or rejected nearly 300 of the 675 applicants to whom they had given their top “Academic 1” rating — a pool of students that, on average, ranked in the top 3 percent of their high school classes and had SAT scores of 1545.

Note Adam Falk’s report that, in the fall of 2013, Williams received more than 1,200 applications from students with academic ratings of 2. Since Williams accepts many fewer than 1,000 students in total from this bucket, there must also be hundreds of AR 2s who are rejected.

Amherst, to its credit, is much more transparent with its admissions data. Consider:

am4

Amherst admissions are not Williams admissions and SAT verbal scores are not the same thing as academic ratings. But, if there are almost 2,000 students with 700 and above verbal SAT scores who are rejected by Amherst, then there must be at least a few hundred AR 1 students rejected by Williams.

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NESCAC Suggestions, 3

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 3.

NESCAC schools should measure and make public the academic accomplishments of their student athletes, both in high school (AP/SAT scores) and in college (GPA, majors).

Suggestions:

  • In the first (trial) year, allow each school to present the information in whatever way it prefers. (Smart presidents will simply delegate the task to their athletic directors and institutional researchers.) Since no (?) athletic conference has done this before, it is not clear what the best approach might be.
  • Any statistic should be presented in three different ways: for the entire student body, for the team as a whole and for the team weighted by playing time. (The last measure discourages coaches from stacking teams with academically accomplished benchwarmers.) FERPA prevents schools from releasing data about an individual student, but there is no law against making aggregate data available.
  • Include data from both high school and college. We want to demonstrate both the affect of athletics on admissions and, even more importantly, how athletes perform in college.

There are several benefits to greater transparency about the academic performance of NESCAC athletes. First, it would publicly demonstrate a fact that many non-athletes doubt: On the whole, athletes are similar in their academic qualifications and accomplishments to non-athletes. Second, it would encourage coaches to make academics a bigger focus in both their recruiting and their mentorship. If you (partially) measure coaches by the academic performance of their teams, you will get better academic performance. Third, it will prevent coaches/schools from complaining, inaccurately, about the behavior of their peers. Right now, coach X loves to claim that school Y unfairly lowers standards for its recruits. Who knows? With transparency, we can observe institutional behavior easily.

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NESCAC Suggestions, 2

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 2.

NESCAC schools should disallow participation by athletes older than 22 (except, in individual cases, by unanimous consent of the NESCAC presidents).

The average age of student athletes in NESCAC continues to increase, further deepening the athlete/non-athlete divide at most schools. This is especially true for starters in high profile sports. Indeed, it is hard to find a NESCAC men’s hockey team in which several of the best players are not two years older than their classmates after spending several years in junior hockey. Although many students use the PG (post-graduate) year option to better prepare for the rigors of NESCAC academics, others (and the coaches who recruit them) use it as a red shirt year, a chance to become a better athlete. Since athletic ability peaks in your late 20s, this aging-of-athletes process will only continue. This isn’t too large a problem now, which makes it all the easier to end. Exceptions, by unanimous consent of the NESCAC presidents could be made in individual cases, like the military veteran who starts college at 21 and was not recruited specifically for his athletic talent. Once coaches know that they can’t play outstanding athletes who are too old, they will find plenty of 18-year-olds to recruit.

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NESCAC Suggestions, 1

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 1.

Football is too dangerous.

The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population.*

NESCAC football may be less dangerous than playing in the NFL, but there is every reason to believe that it is more dangerous, by an order of magnitude, than every other NESCAC sport. More importantly, the defenses for football are weak:

“No student is forced to play football. To the extent doing so is dangerous, it is a student’s choice, just like participation in other risky activities like rock climbing.” The vast majority of starting players on most (all?) NESCAC football teams would not have been admitted to their school if they did not agree to play football. They don’t really have any “choice,” at least if they are being honest with the coach who is recruiting them. If they tell the coach that, while they would love to go to school X, they don’t plan on playing football, the coach won’t put them on his list and they won’t be accepted.

“Ending football would be too unpopular among the alumni and/or major donors.” Connecticut College has no football program, and yet does as well as the average NESCAC school in terms of alumni giving and loyalty. Swarthmore ended football 15 years ago and, after a short-lived controversy, has raised as much money as almost any liberal arts college.

“Football may be dangerous for students but it is not dangerous for the College.” The first football lawsuit against a NESCAC school is not far away. If the NFL was willing to pay millions to injured players, even those who had only been in the league for a season or two, why wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to four-year NESCAC players? Do you want to be deposed by a plaintiff’s attorney about what you knew about the risks of football? Do your trustees? Organizations with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets attract lawsuits. The more years you allow football to continue, the greater the potential liability.

* “Brain Trauma to Affect One in Three Players, N.F.L. Agrees” New York Times, September 12, 2014.

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We’re #1 (for the 15th year in a row)

Williams is #1 in the US News ranking, for the 15th year in a row.

Two schools have a lock on No. 1: Princeton University topped the U.S. News national university list for the seventh straight year, and Williams College led the liberal arts list for the 15th straight year.

Every time that we appear in a sentence like this (with Princeton!), the better for our brand. (And if you find that notion of the College’s “brand” to be distasteful, you are a child. Parents will not pay a quarter million dollars for something with a less-than-amazing reputation.)

1) We did a detailed dive into the rankings last year. Should we revisit? If so, I would need someone to send me the underlying data. See here and here for previous discussions.

2) Kudos to Adam Falk, and the rest of the Williams administration. Maintaining the #1 ranking is important, especially for recruiting students who are less rich, less well-educated and less American. There is no better way to get a poor (but really smart) kid from Los Angeles (or Singapore) to consider Williams than to highlight that we are the best college in the country.

3) 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.

4) 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.

5) Any comments on changes in the rankings below us?

6) Below the break is a copy of the methodology, saved for the benefit of future historians. Read more

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Mozel Tof!

Mary Dettloff kindly forwarded this e-mail, especially relevant given this month’s focus:

Hi Mary :

Mazel tov!

Williams has earned top marks in a historic new ranking of Jewish life in U.S. colleges and universities. See where your institution ranked and how you compare here.

The first of its kind, the guide comes from the Forward, North America’s leading Jewish news organization since 1897. Forward College Guide draws from over 10,000 points of data to paint a real picture of Jewish life at 171 colleges and universities across the country. The Forward created a formula to rank the schools that took into account nearly 50 variables measuring things that matter to Jewish students and parents — not just academic quality and financial information, but also particularly Jewish concerns like kosher food accessibility, Jewish Greek life, anti-Semitism, Israel opportunities, Jewish extracurricular clubs, attendance at Hillel and Chabad events, and more.

I am sure that Williams does great on the “Jewish Greek life” criteria!

For the record, Williams ranks 39th.

Note the claim that 200 students at Williams are Jewish. Is this true? What is the source?

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Parchment

Via our friends at Dartblog, we find Parchment:

As a digital credential service we connect learners to P20 academic institutions and employers to issue, receive, and share credentials in simple and secure ways.

Since 2003, our platform has helped millions of people and thousands of schools and universities exchange more than 20 million transcripts and other credentials globally.

Parchment provides data like this:

amcomp

Or this:

hacomp

1) Does anyone know anything about Parchment? Do they really have access to this sort of information? If so, how? I was under the impression that Williams did not provide anyone with a list of students who it accepted but who choose not to enroll.

2) Regardless of the source, is this data accurate? I have heard that, of all students accepted to both Williams and to one of Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford, only 10% choose Williams. So, the 15/85 split with Harvard seems reasonable. But I also thought that we only yielded 50/50 versus Amherst. Is 70/30 correct?

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Prestigious Institutions Like Harvard or Stanford or Williams

Reader WA points out this absurd 2014 article by William Deresiewicz about problems in elite education.

When I speak of elite education, I mean prestigious institutions like Harvard or Stanford or Williams as well as the larger universe of second-tier selective schools, but I also mean everything that leads up to and away from them—the private and affluent public high schools; the ever-growing industry of tutors and consultants and test-prep courses; the admissions process itself, squatting like a dragon at the entrance to adulthood; the brand-name graduate schools and employment opportunities that come after the B.A.; and the parents and communities, largely upper-middle class, who push their children into the maw of this machine. In short, our entire system of elite education.

Good stuff! Every time Williams is mentioned in the same sentence as truly elite institutions like Harvard and Stanford, the better it is for the College’s brand.

The rest of the article, sadly, is mostly garbage.

Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

1) Deresiewicz provides no evidence that non-elite education does a better job at these tasks. Do UMASS and Purdue have an excellent track record of creating “intellectual curiosity?” Hah! It would be one thing if he argued that all of higher education was broken. That might even be true. But to claim that elite is broken, while the third tier is not, is absurd.

2) Deresiewicz provides no evidence that elite education does a worst job at these tasks today than it did 10, 30, 50 or 100 years ago. Every graduating class at Williams has featured Ephs with insatiable intellectual curiosity and others less so blessed (or cursed). You don’t think there were any Ephs in the 1950’s who were “anxious, timid, and lost?” Hah!

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Graduation Live-Stream?

Harvard live-streams its graduation.

live

Does Williams? We should! Even just putting the same video feed that they pipe to Bronfman on YouTube would be useful.

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Etienne ’21 Chooses Williams Over Yale/Princeton

A nice story:

Samori Etienne is a well-rounded student at Columbia High School. He likes most subjects, plays soccer, is president of the Student Council, and is part of the Parnassian Society. He will graduate in a few weeks.

And like approximately 90% of the seniors at CHS, he plans to move on to college after graduation. He spent the better part of the last few weeks considering which school to attend next. And like a growing number of CHS students, Etienne was lucky enough to gain admittance to more than a handful of elite schools. In fact, he got into more than a handful.

These schools include: Amherst College, American University, Boston College, Bowdoin College, Brown University, Columbia University, Franklin & Marshall College, Georgetown University, Haverford College, Princeton University, Rutgers, Seton Hall University, College of New Jersey, Swarthmore College, University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan College, Williams College and Yale University.

Kudos to Etienne for making such a smart choice.

Williams College was the lucky school he chose.

“They flew me in for two weekends. It was a nice view of what the school is like,” said Etienne. Beyond the students and top notch academics, he said he enjoys “the picturesque campus and the nearby mountains” (Williams is in northwestern Massachusetts, near the Vermont border).

Kudos to Williams for wooing Etienne so assiduously. (Should we credit new Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01 for these new (?) efforts to recruit highly desirable accepted students?)

Williams should devote more resources (and more financial aid) to students who are also accepted by Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford.

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Black/White SAT Scores at Amherst

From page 22 of Race and Class Matters at an Elite College by Amherst professor Elizabeth Aries.

p22

There was more than a 200 point difference (1284 versus 1488) in combined SAT scores between blacks and whites at Amherst. Although this data is a decade old and for Amherst, I believe that the same is true today and at places like Williams. Has anyone heard differently? And, as you would expect, students with lower SAT scores do much worse in Amherst classes:

p155

Interesting stuff! Should we spend a week on other highlights from this book?

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Does Amherst Lie About Its Admissions Data?

Williams and Swarthmore (and most other liberal arts college) have a meaningful number of students with sub-600 SAT scores. For Williams:

sc3

Amherst (pdf) does not.

sc2ac

I think that Amherst is “lying” about its admissions data. Recall this discussion and this one. There is simply no way for an elite liberal arts college to have competitive sports teams (especially in male helmet sports) and meaningful racial diversity (especially African-American) without around 5% of the student body having either math or verbal SAT scores (or both) below 600.

The trick:

Amherst consistently reports SAT plus ACT totalling 100% of their enrollees (or the 99% that results from adding rounded numbers).

Both Swarthmore and Williams are consistently reporting a total SAT plus ACT in the 110% to 120% range.

Clearly what is going on here is that Swarthmore and Williams are reporting both the SAT and ACT for students submitting both (as they are supposed to according to the instructions).

Amherst is not. Amherst is pulling a “Middlebury” and only reporting whichever score (SAT or ACT) they used for admissions purposes, presumably whichever is higher. (I know that they receive both scores for the dual test takers). It is incomprehsible that not one single enrolled Amherst freshman took both the SAT and the ACT when 20% of both Williams and Swarthmore’s freshman classes the last two years took both.

This a 2008 comment was from HWC, whose contributions I still miss. Looks like Amherst is still cheating. In the latest Common Data Sets, we see for Williams:

will

For Amherst:

amher

Do you see the trick? About the same percentage of students at Williams and Amherst report ACT scores. That makes sense! Williams and Amherst draw their students from the same populations. But Amherst claims that only 52% (instead of 68% at Williams) report SAT scores. That is the lie. Amherst almost surely gets SAT scores from about the same percentage of its students. It just chooses to ignore those scores from those students whose SAT scores are worse than their ACT scores, pretending that it did not “use” those scores in making its admissions decisions. If that is what they are doing (and it almost certainly is), then Amherst is guilty of fraud. How else to explain their divergence from places like Swarthmore:

swarth

And Pomona:

pom

And Wellesley:

welle

There is a great story here for the Record, or for The Amherst Student . . .

Perhaps our friends at Dartblog can help us out. For Dartmouth:

dart

I think that Dartmouth is “pulling an Amherst.” Way more than 51% of the first year students enrolled at Dartmouth took the SAT and reported their scores to Dartmouth when they applied. Dartmouth just “forgets” the scores for those with better ACT than SAT scores when it reports its data. How else could the SAT percentage be 51% at Dartmouth but 85% (!) at Harvard, 74% at Yale, and 67% at Brown. (I think that SAT percentages at Harvard/Yale are inflated due to their prestige. Brown’s percentage is in-line with elite liberal arts colleges. Is there an innocent explanation for Dartmouth’s low percentage? I doubt it.)

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Richard Spencer to Speak at Williams?

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?

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Blind to the Evils

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.

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Charles Murray Prevented From Speaking at Middlebury

Charles Murray, perhaps the most important social scientist of the last 50 years, was prevented from speaking at Middlebury last night.

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:

Charles Murray at Williams:
031616_UncomfortableLearning_GraceFlaherty_GF_C

Charles Murray at Middlebury:
Charles-Murray-Protest--600x375

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!

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Amherst Mascot Process

AMH-Mascot-timelinePoster-8.5x11-01

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:

wolf

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?)

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What others think of Williams

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.

One. Amherst.

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.

Read more

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On a lighter note…

Hamster 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?

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Middlebury Admissions Data

Here (and saved copy here pdf) is data on the last 10 years of admissions data from Middlebury. Sample:

midd

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.

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US News Details V

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.

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US News Details IV

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.

usnews3

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:

whale

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:

high

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?

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US News Details III

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:

usnews3

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)!

amh

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).

wil

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.

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US News Details II

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:

usnews1

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:

english

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!

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US News Details I

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.

usnews1

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.

Background:

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.

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We’re #1 (for the 14th straight time)

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.

Always good news! Do readers want a multi-day examination of this topic? Most of my views are unchanged from previous years.

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.

4) Below the break is a copy of the methodology, saved for the benefit of future historians. Read more

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More Shade from Chicago

As a follow up to our discussion last week, read this Wall Street Journal op-ed by University Chicago President Robert Zimmer.

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.]

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Cultural and Racial Sensitivities at Amherst

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?

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U Chicago Throws Shade at Falk

Here (jpg) is the letter to incoming first years at the University of Chicago. Best part:

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.

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