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Middlebury Returning All Students

Well done!

Middlebury will reopen its campus to students, faculty and staff in the fall with certain precautions, according to a copy of the college announcement shared with The Campus. The College plans to welcome students back, with classes beginning on September 8 for a 12-week semester, which will continue without interruption until Thanksgiving Break, before a transition to remote learning. The cost of attendance remains unchanged.

I hope/trust that Maud is smart enough to follow suit.


Quick Football Update

The football team’s strong season continues. Many of the trends Whitney noted in his post at the beginning of the month have continued. The defense is strong, giving up less than 10 points a game. The offense has continued to be a power house – over 30 points a game. amHerst also is having a good season with a 4-2 record. Both teams have lost to Middlebury, who is 6-0 and seems to be headed to a conference championship. While a conference championship seems like a long shot for the Ephs, the little three title is right in front of them and more importantly, they can be happy for ever by beating amHerst on 11/9. Good luck to the team and all the athletes representing Williams this Fall!


Restoring Free Speech

From The Wall Street Journal last month:

While opinions differ sharply about President Trump, everyone can agree he speaks plainly. On Thursday he issued an executive order supporting free speech on campus.

It is too early to say how much good the president’s executive order will do, but it was long past time for the federal government to face up to the rot of political correctness and intolerance that is subverting the American educational establishment. There are some points of light. The so-called Chicago Statement, for example, named for a declaration of principle from the University of Chicago, embraces open and robust debate even about subjects that “some or even by most members of the University community [find] offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.” Several institutions have endorsed that document.

But many others, including some of the most prestigious, reject it outright. Students and professors at Williams College, confronted with an initiative to adopt the Chicago principles last year, took “grave issue” with its “premises” and warned of “the potential harm it may inflict upon our community.” You might have thought that supporting free speech was an obvious good. Not so fast. The Williams activists declared that the notion “has been co-opted by right-wing and liberal parties as a discursive cover for racism, xenophobia, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and classism.”

The authors of the Williams counterpetition made a show of demanding greater diversity at the 226-year-old Western Massachusetts school. But it’s long been obvious that calls for “diversity” usually amount to demands for strict intellectual and moral conformity on contentious issues. By that inverted standard, a campus is more “diverse” the fewer voices it tolerates.

This is precisely the situation that the president’s executive order promoting free speech on campus is designed to address. That its effect is likely to be more hortatory than coercive may be an advantage, not a liability, since serious reform of these institutions will come about not from the imposition of a law but a change of heart. The prospect of losing federal dollars is one sort of incentive. The spectacle of those passionate, articulate and besieged young students may prove to be an even greater one.

The only “change of heart” I have seen at Williams over the last 30 years is an ever-increasing restriction about what students, or their invited guests, are allowed to say. Will Maud Mandel change that? I don’t know. Any rumors on how the process is going?

Meanwhile, things have gone from bad to worse at Middlebury:

Middlebury College has canceled [yesterday] a campus speech by conservative Polish Catholic philosopher Ryszard Legutko in response to planned protests by liberal activists.

A professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University and a member of the European Parliament, Legutko was scheduled to speak Wednesday at the Vermont college’s Alexander Hamilton Forum, delivering a lecture entitled “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies.”

The liberal activists took issue with Legutko’s pointed critiques of multiculturalism, feminism, and homosexuality, calling them “homophobic, racist, xenophobic, [and] misogynistic.”

“Inquiry, equity, and agency cannot be fostered in the same space that accepts and even elevates homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic discourse,” they demand. “Bigotry of any kind should not be considered a form of inquiry.”

The chairmen of both departments denied the activists requests, defending the event on grounds of academic freedom. But hours before the event was scheduled, Middlebury Provost Jeff Cason and Vice President for Student Affairs Baishakhi Taylor sent a campus-wide email indicating the lecture was canceled.

NESCAC schools may have started by banning people like John Derbyshire. They are now banning (right-wing) members of the European parliament. Where will this end?

I am having breakfast with one of the most powerful Middlebury alumni on Friday. What questions should I ask him?


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.


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:

Charles Murray at Middlebury:

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!


Middlebury Admissions Data

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


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.


Grade Inflation

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?


Hockey Winning Percentage is not Correlated with Alumni Donations

Let’s continue our discussion of “Athletics and Alumni Giving Evidence From a Highly Selective Liberal Arts College” pdf by Jessica Holmes, James Meditz and Paul Sommers (HMS). Today, my focus is on the claim that hockey winning percentage at Middlebury leads to larger alumni gifts. See their Table 6. I have already demonstrated that using hockey championships as the independent variable is stupid because every year, bar one, after 1995 is a championship year. But, as Rory points out, HMS also show significant results when trying to predict donation amounts (but not donation rates). Yet this result is just as flawed. Here (pdf) is raw data on hockey’s record. (I am assuming that the year 1996, say, means alumni giving through June 30, 1996 and the hockey team’s record for the 1995-1996 season.)


The entire positive relation is (almost certainly) driven by the 1994 outlier year, visible in the lower left. (The line is simple least squares.) If your result changes when just one year out of 15 is deleted, then your result is junk.

1) This aggregate approach is not the same as the individual/gift/year model that HMS actually use, but it captures the central flaw in their result. Instead of aggregating all the data in 1994 into a single mean (as I do in this chart), they have 20,000 or so observation for 1994. Yet the effect is exactly the same. That year (like all years in the early 90s) featured lower than average giving. It also featured an anomalously horrible hockey team. Take away that year, and the result probably goes away, even with their huge panel.

2) Another way to see the problem is to drop 1994 from the analysis and recreate the same chart.

There is no relation between hockey winning percentage and average donation size once we drop the outlier 1994 results from the picture. If anything, there is a small (and statistically insignificant) negative correlation.

Summary: The central problem with this paper is not that correlation does not prove causation. That is an issue for all non-experimental work! Instead, the central problem is that HMS have no good evidence of correlation. Variable 1 (championship seasons) fails because they all occur in the second half of the data. There is no (meaningful) variation beyond that. Any variable that is TRUE for post-1995 and FALSE before that will show the same result, even gibberish items. Variable 2 (winning percentage) avoids this problem because it varies over the entire time period but, outside of 1994, there is no correlation. Higher winning percentages are not associated with higher donation amounts. The 1994 outlier drives everything. And, if you result changes when a single year out of 15 is dropped, then your result is useless.


Hockey Success (Probably) Does Not Lead to Increased Donations

Let’s continue our discussion of “Athletics and Alumni Giving Evidence From a Highly Selective Liberal Arts College” pdf by Jessica Holmes, James Meditz and Paul Sommers. Today, my focus is on the claim that hockey success at Middlebury leads to increased alumni donation rate.

Hockey success, when measured by a national or league championship title, is associated with a 7% higher likelihood of giving.

This is either very sloppy or very wrong or both. First, let us start, as suggested by Vicarious ’83, with a simple chart of the data.

The problem is obvious: There has been a significant secular increase in participation rates over these 15 years. Alumni were much more likely to donate in 2004 (47%) then they were in 1990 (34%). Although the rise has not been perfectly monotonic, it has been steady and significant.

Unfortunately, the authors fail to take that increase into account in their statistical analysis. That means that anything — average SAT scores, number of faculty, NCAA hockey wins, Republicans in Congress, e-mail messages sent, gas prices — which is higher post 1995 will be correlated with increased alumni participation even if there is no causal connection.

Second, consider the phrase “national or league championship title.” Here (pdf) is the hockey team’s record. They won a championship title every year from 1995 through 2004, except for 2003. Any comparison of alumni campaign results which distinguishes between hockey championship years and non-championship years is almost identical to a comparison of pre-1995 and post-1995 giving.

In order to do statistics, you need variation. You must have some years when X is true and some when it is false. If X is always true (or if X is perfectly correlated with some other factor that you know is important), then you can’t (easily) tell what effect X has.

Third, even if you view the lack of a championship in 2003 as somehow causally connected to the fall off in donation rate for that year (which I find absurd), you still have to deal with the team’s success. They made the NCAA Semifinals! Is there really a Middlebury alumnus who would have given that year if the team had won two more games but, because they were only one of the 4 best teams in the country, declined to send in a donation? Implausible!

Fourth, note the timing problems. The 2003 semifinal loss occurred on March 21, 2003. Middlebury, like Williams, runs on a fiscal year that ends on June 30. So, by the end of March, the vast majority of fund-raising had already been completed. (I called the Middlebury Alumni Fund and they provided a very rough estimate of more than 75% of the donations received by the end of February.) So, unless alumni had a time machine that told them, when they were donating in December, what the hockey team was going to do 4 months later, the effect is even smaller. Essentially, you have to argue that a large part of the small proportion of alumni that donate after March won’t donate if the hockey team only makes the semi-finals but would have donated if they had won it all. Does anyone believe that?


Football Success Decreases Alumni Donations

Consider the abstract from “Athletics and Alumni Giving Evidence From a Highly Selective Liberal Arts College” pdf by Jessica Holmes, James Meditz and Paul Sommers. (Holmes and Sommers are Middlebury professors. Meditiz was their student.)

Using data on annual giving (between 1990 and 2004) for more than 22,000 active alumni from a highly selective liberal arts college, the authors employ a probit framework to analyze the likelihood of giving and a tobit framework to analyze the determinants of alumni generosity. Both the micro-level analysis and the statistical methodology allow the authors to test for differential impacts (by gender, age, or undergraduate involvement) of sports participation or a winning season on the propensity to give as well as on the generosity of alumni contributions. The results indicate that athletes are more likely to give and that they are more generous than their nonathlete counterparts, especially younger alumni who participated in one of the college’s historically most successful high-profile sports. A winning season in this particular sports program also leads to greater alumni giving and more generous gifts.

Keep in mind that we all agree that athletes tend to give more than non-athletes. This study confirms that, but it is nothing new. Now, there is an interesting discussion to be had about why that might be so, yet that discussion is not particularly relevant to Williams policy going forward. The central dispute is:

Does providing athletes with significant admissions advantages generate greater donations?

There are two main mechanisms by which such an effect might occur — assuming that more admissions advantages lead to better athletes lead to more wins/championships.

First (and this is covered by the Meer and Rosen (2008)), athletes on a given team might give more when either their team does better now or their team did better while they were at school. Meer and Rosen (2008) show clearly (in my view) that there is no such effect, or that the effect is too small to matter.

Second (covered in Holmes et al. (2008) here), all alumni, including both athletes and non-athletes might give more when specific teams (here football and hockey) do well today. Holmes et al. do not look at success in any other sports besides football and hockey, so, obviously, we need to be careful about generalizing to sports that have essentially no fans other than the parents of current athletes. Moreover, Holmes et al. find mixed results:

Football success decreases alumni donations!

Interestingly, whether one uses league title or winning percentage, football success translates into lower propensities to give; in years in which the football team wins a title, alumni are 7% less likely to give, and a 10-point increase in the winning percentage is associated with a 1% reduction in probability of giving.

Note how they leave this fact out of the abstract. That result alone should cause all the tips boosters at EphBlog to take a step back and re-evaluate. If the single sport that is the highest profile (most athletes, most fans) has a negative correlation between success and donations than we ought to rethink everything. And that is all the more true since football requires, by far, the largest number of significant admissions preferences.

It is true, on the other hand, that hockey success is correlated with alumni giving. Yet we will leave the details of that result to another day.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, this post is somewhat teasing. The are so many flaws with the analysis (see here) that it is highly, highly doubtful that football success decreases alumni donations. After all, have you ever met a Williams alum who a) Followed the football team closely enough to know their win/loss record and b) Gave less money, less often when the record was good? No. It is absurd.

Athletics success, whether current or past, whether in high profile sports like football/hockey or low profile sports, has no connection to alumni generosity.


Women Give More Than Men?

Middlebury Professor Paul Sommers kindly provided a pdf of his article: “Athletics and Alumni Giving Evidence From a Highly Selective Liberal Arts College,” co-authored with Jessica Holmes and James Meditz. We have discussed this article already here and here. For the rest of the week, I will be highlighting different aspects of the article and adding my own thoughts. Please join the conversation.

Let’s start with an interesting paragraph.

The other determinants behave largely as predicted across all specifications. For example, males are about 30% less likely to give and to give about 20% fewer dollars than their female counterparts; this is consistent with the findings in several other studies (e.g., Belfield & Beney, 2000; Bruggink & Siddiqui, 1995; Eckel & Grossman, 1998). Older alumni are both more likely to give and to give more generously, reflective of their greater income potential. Married alumni are about 48% more likely to contribute to their alma mater and tend to give about 44% more than their single counterparts. Alumni with close alumni relatives are about 30% more likely to donate and contribute about 30% more than alumni without relatives with ties to the institution. As expected, those who live in communities with higher median incomes are both more likely donors and more generous givers.

1) Fascinating stuff. If you are a Williams junior, you should write a senior thesis or give a math/stat colloquium on this topic.

2) Do women really give more than men? I doubt it. Note the key data source: “We obtained data on annual giving (between 1990 and 2004) for 22,641 active alumni (for whom a mailing address is known or about 95% of the alumni pool) from the Middlebury College Development Office.” If Middlebury is like Williams than, broadly speaking, alumni donations fall into two categories: regular annual giving — this is the Alumni Fun that appeals to your generosity each year — and special/leadership/campaign giving. This latter category contains almost all the big gifts (and the panther’s share of total dollars). See Williams breakdown here. I think that the data from this paper does not include major gifts. My sense is that major gifts skew heavily male. (Informed commentary welcome. Can you name any major gifts from Williams women?) If that is the case, then this data does not really allow us to decide who gives more on average.


Better Athletes Make Better Givers

David writes:

But don’t delude yourself into thinking that lowering admissions standards for star athletes in order to win more games in order to generate more donations works in any meaningful way. It doesn’t.

To convince us, he exhorts us to “read the literature,” and links to an article by Meer and Rosen that studies the relationship between winning and giving at, what is almost certainly, Princeton.  The authors find that male alumni who played for a team that won its conference gave about 7% more than athlete-alumni who didn’t win it all, and that for women, winning the conference championship didn’t result in any increase in giving. 

Unfortunately for David’s conclusion, the Princeton study didn’t examine whether the members of the championship teams were admitted under materially lower standards than the members of non-championship teams.  But let’s assume they were – in that case I would still agree with David that a 7% increase, from only those male athletes who won it all, is nowhere close to enough to justify lowering my admission standards for athletes with an eye toward raising more money in the future.   Q.E.D., right David?

Not so fast, my friend . . .

If I’m John Malcolm ’86, I’m lining my birdcage with the Princeton study because its irrelevant to me – regardless of whether it’s a sound piece of academic research or not.

I would, however, be inviting the authors of the Midd study to make a presentation to Adam Falk, Dick Nesbitt, and the Trustees.  NOT because the Midd article is a superior research product, (I have no idea whether it is or isn’t) but because they’re on to something – and they may not even realize it:  Coolness!

Now if you are a serious athlete on a team sport, this is true everywhere:

Coolness = NCAA tournament
Coolness ≠ Conference Championship

The big “Ah – ha” in the Midd study is here:   

When we differentiate among several high-profile sports, we find that the football players are less generous than either hockey players or other former athletes; specifically, hockey and other non–football athletes are about 23% more likely to give than those who did not play a sport, whereas football players are only about 9% more likely to give than non-athletes. Although football players give about 13% more than those who did not participate in a sport, hockey players and other athletes can be expected to contribute about 20% more than otherwise similar non-athlete alumni.

The big difference between Midd hockey and football is NCAA postseason play.  NESCAC football players get 8 games in the fall, and that’s it.  Then they torture themselves by reading every December, aching for the chance to find out if they have they have what it takes to open up a can of Whoop-ass on Mt. Union in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.  The hockey players go to and read about themselves – coolness.  

Virtually every NESCAC team, EXCEPT football, is allowed to aim at a national title if it wants to.  It makes perfect sense that Middlebury football players give at lower percentages than virtually all other Middlebury athletes.

To sum up:

The Midd study shows that athletes have lower SATs and get lower grades than their non-athlete classmates, however, they go on to earn more money ($63,139 vs. $60,307 median income), they are 20% more likely to give, and their average gift is higher – a lot higher.  ($431 vs. $204).  And this may be the most important part of all:  The standard deviation of the athletes’ gifts is $11,278, while that for the non-athletes is $4,267.  The only thing I can think of that would explain that last part is that athletes account for a disproportionate amount of the really big gifts.

The Princeton study noted that about 70% of total donations came from just the top 1% of donors.  Then, the authors removed the 1% from further analysis as “outliers” and pretty much stopped thinking about that rather important piece of the puzzle.  Doh!

Advice to John Malcolm:  Pay the $25 for your own copy of the Midd study, (I think Dave’s mom is going to be busy doing pro bono work for Diana and me)  then take the authors out to dinner and find out whatever else they know.


Middlebury raises eyebrows

This sounds like an excellent idea:

Middlebury College has been known for years for immersion-based language instruction and liberal arts education. So when the college announced on Wednesday that it is partnering with a for-profit company to build an online language program aimed at middle- and high-school students, it raised some eyebrows.

The program, to be called Middlebury Interactive Languages, will open this summer with initial courses in Spanish and French. Middlebury professors and faculty at the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy — the college’s highly touted summer program — will develop the online courses. They will be taught online by Middlebury professors , instructors affiliated with the Monterey Institute, and graduates of the language academy, according to Michael E. Geisler, vice president for language schools at Middlebury and director of the new program.

Read more


Midd Kid

Via Karen Unterekless ’05:

Stunningly good. More details, including lyrics, at MiddBlog. We need an Eph version! Assigned to Danny Huang ’11 and the students at Purple Valley Films.


Middlebury Changes Tuition Policy

In a bold move, particularly in this climate, Middlebury has now placed a ceiling on tuition increases at one percent above CPI.  I am surprised that Midd can afford to do this given its much smaller endowment than Williams and Amherst.  I like this policy because it forces the type of cost-consciousness, on a permanent basis, that has led to some creative thinking about spending patterns on campus.  Moreover, it does seem like tuition can’t rise at the current rate forever … I mean at some point, maybe at 70k a year, maybe at 100 (which isn’t that far off at current rates of increase) the sticker shock will become just too much to bear.  I am not sure I’d put such a policy in place right now given everything that is being cut already, but as a long term policy goal, it makes a ton of sense.  Moreover, if other peers follow, Williams will have no choice but to join in.

On the downside, this policy seriously hinders a college’s ability to price discriminate by soaking the richest families, who may be able to afford extraordinarily high tuition increases, and diverting those extra revenues to financial aid students.  Midd never went no-loans in the first place, but I’d be surprised if, in the event Midd’s peers don’t match this policy, Midd can viably compete for middle and upper middle class students who qualify for financial aid.  On the plus side, this should really help Midd with the substantial portion of upper middle class students who just miss out on financial aid, but for whom 50k plus in tuition represents a substantial burden on their families.  Ideally, I’d like to see this policy AND no loans, but I’d rather see the return of no loans, first.

Not long after President Falk takes office, he’ll no doubt start talking with the Board of Trustees about themes for the next fund drive.  Were I creating a “wish list” in soliciting major donations, this bullet point would be near the top (it’s a very appealing sell … and would also take a massive donation to make happen).  Generally, I’d seek donations that could, in no particular order:

  • enable CPI-adjusted caps on tuition increases
  • resume no-loans and secure need-blind for internationals going forward
  • secure competitive salaries and benefits for the expanded faculty, without cutting back on visitors (and maybe even toss in DK’s teaching awards to boot), plus adding a few particularly distinguished visitors who are renowned for their teaching abilities (perhaps a Williams version of the Baylor teaching award / visitorship that Professor Burger just won)
  • accelerate the completion of Stetson-Sawyer and Weston (maybe via naming rights for portions of each project)
  • continue to improve socioeconomic diversity of the student body
  • fund long-overdue major improvements to the athletic facilities (the field house and Chandler / Lasell in particular)
  • add additional coops for senior housing in light of the slightly expanded student body, so as to maintain a comfortable volume of campus housing without cutting into common space
  • create endowed funds for continuous integration of new technology into campus and alumni life (generally improving both alumni relations and the college’s brand by making campus events more accessible via the web, more creative web outreach to alumni and prospectives, etc.  Given Williams’ location, it should always be ahead of the curve when it comes to technological outreach, and that has not been the case in recent years)
  • diversify social life on campus via dedicated endowed funding of creative event, speaker and performance series at the Log, Paresky, Goodrich, Chapin and potentially (if feasible) an improved multi-purpose field house that is flexible enough to accommodate campus-wide music / entertainment events on the occasional weekend evening.  I don’t know of any Williams peer that has anything close to the variety and caliber of student-life spaces on campus … I believe that the best way (a) to compensate for Williams’ location and (b) to address the concerns about the prominence of alcohol in social life, the best (and maybe only) option is to make sure the funding is there when students are motivated to use those spectacular spaces in creative fashion, creating a wider variety of campus events that appeal to all types of students.

Middlebury Update

Hat tip to Jeff for this article on Middlebury. There is only a single mention of Williams, so I’ll put my comments below the break.

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Middlebury Cancels Two Overseas January Courses

Middlebury has announced that it is canceling two overseas Jan. term courses due to the financial situation. Both courses – one to London and one to Nepal – were designed to allow lower-income students to travel abroad, and had heavy financial aid components. I did not see any details on their endowment.

Are similar cuts on the table for Williams? 

And will the stipends for summer travel and internships be cut?


An Arab Summer at Middlebury

Following up on a piece from the Middle East Quarterly, Boston College professor Franck Salemeh writes at RealClearPolitics on some notable trends at Middlebury’s summer Arabic language program.

In maps, textbooks, lectures, and other teaching materials used in the instruction of Arabic, Israel didn’t exist, and the overarching watan ‘Arabi (Arab fatherland) was substituted for the otherwise diverse and multi-faceted “Middle East.” Curious and misleading geographical appellations, such as the “Arabian Gulf” in lieu of the time-honored “Persian Gulf,” abounded. Syria’s borders with its neighbors were marked “provisional,” and Lebanon was referred to as a qutr (or “province”) of an imagined Arab supra-state.

Full text here.

The organizers had more on their plate, too. According to Salameh, the program enforced halal dietary restrictions during meals, banned alcohol from events and parties, and were the sole program to opt out of observing July 4th festivities.

As Salameh notes up top in the first piece, Middlebury’s immersive summer language programs are considered to be among the best in the nation, and I’ve always envied this excellent feature of our NESCAC neighbor. Pretty much the only part of Middlebury I feel that way about, actually. Well, maybe the hockey rink. That’s about it.

Now, unlike the author, I’m not so concerned about Middle Eastern studies professors being “depressingly consistent in their condemnation of American policy in the region, including its support for the democracies in Israel and Turkey.” But I also don’t think a language program has much business mandating its participants’ gustatory, libationary or cartographic choices. Although the “provisional” borders thing is actually kind of funny.

Anyone have any thoughts?


Middlebury Stalker

One semester while I was at Williams, a person who would sneak into women’s rooms at night and watch them sleep. Very creepy. I believe the perp was eventually caught (and was a non-student resident of Williamstown — but my memory could be faulty).

It appears that last year Middlebury experienced a similar problem.

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