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Student Survey on Politics

From the Record:

Based on the 134 responses from a survey sent by the Record to 500 random unixes, students at the College have also involved themselves in the midterm elections, including discussing races with friends and professors, following day-by-day developments and voting. The survey shows that a majority of students were self-motivated to vote, voted based on their overwhelming disapproval of President Donald Trump and largely supported Democratic candidates.

1) Kudos to the Record for organizing the survey and running this article. More, please. For example, how about a survey of faculty opinions?

2) Make the data public. There is no reason why the Record could not provide a link to the raw data. For example, the article notes that:

From a scale of “1” (highly unfavorable) to “5” (highly favorable), only three percent of students gave him rating of “5,” while 81 percent of students gave him a rating of “1.”

Interesting! But how many gave Trump a rating of 4? I want to know what percentage of students have a favorable rating of Trump, a count that includes both the 4s and the 5s. I realize that the Record can’t discuss every number from the survey in the article, but that is why it ought to provide the data to its readers.

3) Even more interesting than student opinions about US politics are student opinions about Williams policies. How about a Record survey asking about admissions, touching on a topics like the quota for international students, preferences for athletes and affirmative action?

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Making the Williams Record a First Class College Newspaper

The new Editor-in-chief of the Williams Record is Danny Jin, supported by new Managing Editors Nicholas Goldrosen and Jane Petersen. How might they turn the Record into a first class college newspaper?

First, have a clear goal. Williams, as a smaller college, will never be able to support a daily paper like The Harvard Crimson or the Yale Daily News. But there is no reason why individual articles in the Record shouldn’t be just as good as those in other college papers. Right now, they are far, far worse.

Second, institute beats for individual reporters/teams. The Crimson and YDN — like every (?) professional paper — use “beats,” defined areas of focus for a given reporter. The Record should do the same. Admissions would be one beat, Administration another. Others might include the Endowment, Local News, Student Organizations and Faculty. With more reporters, we might add beats for each individual class. The Arts and Sports reporters at the Record already do a reasonable job, not least because, over time, they develop expertise in their topics. The same model should apply elsewhere.

Third, recruit more students. To be fair, the Record does try to recruit. But, if Jin/Goldrosen/Petersen want to turn it into a first class paper, they need to try harder, not least by appealing to students self-interest. The pitch is:

So, you want to go into finance? Cool! How are you going to learn about the finance world? How are you going to demonstrate your expertise to future employers? Simple! Become a reporter for the Record and write (almost) every week about the endowment. This will force you to become an expert on the Williams endowment specifically and on college endowments, and institutional investing, in general. Even better: After a few years, you will have a collection of articles to catch the interest of Wall Street firms.

The same sort of pitch applies in other areas:

So, you want to go into consulting/business? Cool! How are you going to learn about the business world? How are you going to demonstrate your expertise to future employers? Simple! Become a reporter for the Record and write (almost) every week about the Williams budget. This will force you to become an expert on Williams spending specifically and on the management of elite colleges, and other large organizations, in general. Even better: After a few years, you will have a collection of articles to catch the interest of consulting firms.

Nothing impresses a potential employer more than demonstrated expertise on a real world topic, gained outside of class. A similar pitch could be given to students with other interests.

Fourth, annualize the coverage. The yearly rhythms of the College provide a simple structure around which to organize coverage. Each year, there should be an article about endowment returns, each of the 4 trustee meetings, early admissions, regular admissions, First Days, Claiming Williams and so on. This might appear repetitive, but Williams, like all multi-century institutions, has a heartbeat, one which can be used to structure your reporting. An annualized coverage also allows for the development, over time, of real expertise. If you write about endowment returns each year then, eventually, you will start to ask some hard questions.

Fifth, talk to critics. The single most embarrassing thing about today’s Record is that it almost never talks to critics of the College. (Compare that behavior to how the Crimson and the YDN operate.) Many articles are simple rehashings of Williams press releases.

The Record could be a great paper. Will Danny Jin make it so?

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Predatory Desires, 3

Great Record article by Rebecca Tauber and Samuel Wolf about the on-going debate over the Chicago Principles. Read the whole thing, along with our previous commentary. I will pull out some highlights over the next three days. Day 3.

Gail Newman, professor of German, who spoke with faculty against the petition and reached out to supporting students organizing against the petition, took issue with the language and divisive nature of the Chicago Statement. “The Statement … ignores the fact that both of these concepts [‘freedom’ and ‘civility’] have been used over and over again to shut down legitimate calls for conditions of safety that would allow the voices of those who haven’t been heard to come forward,” she said.

Examples, please. Newman is an historian (sort of). If something has really “been used over and over again,” it should be easy to come up with scores of examples. But I can’t think of a single one!

First, it is not even clear what Newman means by “shut down.” Williams, and places like Williams, have occasionally banned speakers or restricted their speech. (This is my understanding of the phrase “shut down.” Contrary opinions welcome.) But, prior to banning Derbyshire two years ago, the last similar incident at Williams was . . . Mark Hopkins banning Ralph Waldo Emerson! Does Newman have other examples in mind?

Second, FIRE provides this handy database of speaker controversies. Not all of these are directly analogous to Derbyshire and some involve other issues, like the awarding of honorary degrees. I don’t see a single one in which “freedom” of speech was cited by those doing the banning/disinviting.

Third, the heart of the debate involves “safety.” Newman believes, I suspect, that a Derbyshire speech, even it does not incite physical violence directly, is an act of verbal aggression against (certain) Williams students. That speech hurts them. Since Williams has an obligation to protect them — both because safety is itself important and because a safe environment is a requirement for a good education — we have no choice but to ban speakers like Derbyshire. The problem with this reasoning, obviously, is that there is no good way to draw the line. Many students feel — and who is Gail Newman to dispute their feelings? — that a speech from Charles Murray or James Watson or Larry Summers or Ann Venker or Kris Kobach or insert-any-Trump-supporter is a similar act of verbal aggression, meriting a ban from Williams.

Maud Mandel is way too smart to head down that path . . .

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Predatory Desires, 2

Great Record article by Rebecca Tauber and Samuel Wolf about the on-going debate over the Chicago Principles. Read the whole thing, along with our previous commentary. I will pull out some highlights over the next three days. Day 2.

Mark Reinhardt, professor of political science and American studies, sent an email to the entire faculty urging his colleagues to withdraw their signature or not sign the petition. He expressed problems with the petition’s format, larger messages and implications of the Chicago Statement. “I know there is among us a wide range of views, rooted in part in very different experiences of the College and American society,” he wrote. “Given that diversity, I propose that any forums be approached as opportunities to consider campus discourse in the broadest possible terms, and not merely as occasions for endorsing or opposing one particular, predetermined framing of our circumstances, challenges and prospects.”

1) A faculty source forwarded me several of the intra-faculty e-mails on this topic, although not Reinhardt’s. Should I publish them? (Faculty readers should feel free to add them in the comment thread.)

2) Who will lead the fight against Maud? One candidate is Reinhardt, who knows his way around the College administration. (Recall his successful fight to remain at Williams after he was initially denied tenure 20 years ago.) Other candidates include Gene Bell-Villada and Gail Newman. Eli Nelson wrote and distributed a detailed document (pdf), but my advice to all non-tenured faculty is to avoid fights with the president.

3) What advice do you have for Reinhardt? How should he try to stop Williams from going in the direction that President Mandel clearly favors?

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Predatory Desires, 1

Great Record article by Rebecca Tauber and Samuel Wolf about the on-going debate over the Chicago Principles. Read the whole thing, along with our previous commentary. I will pull out some highlights over the next three days. Day 1.

Joy James, professor of political science and Africana studies, published an article in The Feminist Wire in which she argued against the Chicago Statement and outlined its implications for the College community. “The Chicago Statement ‘free speech’ campaign accumulates power for elites and enables their predatory desires and aggressions against marginalized groups,” James wrote. “People of color are window dressing for a Statement that seeks to legitimize hate speech.”

Is it worth going through James’ article? Not that I can see. But this does provide a handy excuse for revisiting James’ troubled tenure at Williams. (But, full disclosure, my prediction that she would depart was wrong. Perhaps no other school is interested in taking James off our hands? As a member of the political science department told me a decade ago: “Yes, she wrote a book. But it is not a good book.”)

James linked this view to a previously published article in The Feminist Wire by Kai Green, assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, and Kimberly Love, assistant professor of English, which discusses the relationship between academia and injustice. Green and Love detailed the challenges of being Black queer feminists in both higher education and Williamstown, portraying many of the issues raised by those against the petition. “We are not safe because we are Black radical thinkers and professors who refuse to wait for the right time to point out the anti-Black, transphobic, xenophobic and the list goes on … wrongs of this time,” Green and Love wrote.

Is it worth it to go through Green and Love’s article? Again, not that I can see. Perhaps the real purpose of having faculty like Green and Love at Williams is that, in comparison, Joy James looks like an intellectual.

All that said, it would be wonderful if the Williams College Debate Union were to organize some debates/panels featuring James/Green/Love and their faculty/student opponents. The more discussion and debate at Williams, the better.

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Storytime is Back!

Good news! Storytime is back.

When we discussed the complaints about Storytime, there was some confusion about exactly what the critics were complaining about. The key issue involved “the consumption of black stories, black lives and black narratives.” Allow me to translate from SJW’eese.

Consider three hypothetical cases of the behavior of a white student listening to a black student at Storytime.

1) Extreme boorishness. Arriving late, looking at his phone, rolling his eyes in disbelief, talking with his friends, asking confrontational questions, leaving early, and so on.

2) Neutrality. Arriving on time, paying attention, listening quietly, but asking no questions.

3) Perfect support. Behaving in such a way as to make the speaker certain you were supportive of her talk, her story, her views and her position in the community. The exact behavior which would make the speaker feel this way will vary speaker to speaker.

There is a continuum, of course, but I would wager that no listener at Storytime has ever behaved with extreme boorishness, or anywhere close to it. Problems might arise, however, if a white student behaves in a way that a black student objects to.

The performance [of Underground Railroad Game]at the College sparked controversy, Ansari said. “It had to do with the depiction of African-Americans as slaves, scenes of painful episodes of our enslavement for comedic consumption on the stage and dolls in blackface on the flyers of advertisement,” he added. “Black people were in the audience, and we were experiencing it in tears while our white friends were experiencing it laughing.”

This is the heart of the issue, the style of “consumption” — by white students — of content created by black students. It is not enough to attend Storytime. One must react to the stories at Storytime appropriately. And if we can’t trust white students to react appropriately, then is better that Storytime be shut down.

The aftermath of the show led to the creation of a movement, organized by a former Minority Coalition (MinCo) co-chair [Zeke King Phillips ’18], called ‘At What Cost?’

Having a conversation about these topics seems like a worthy goal. Congrats to Phillips for leading the effort. The problem arises when conversation turns to control.

“Students began to say, ‘Let’s call a pause on anything to do with painful stories where people are just sitting there laughing or consuming others’ pain without a deeper effort at community building.’

This is the heart of the problem with the social justice left. If you want to have a conversation about how people should behave, then great, let’s have a conversation. If you want people to behave in a certain way at your event, then great, let them know. (This is Williams, where politeness is almost a civic religion! Ephs will either behave the way you want — at your event — or they will decline to attend.)

But to force the cancellation of Storytime — even though you are not running Storytime or speaking at Storytime — just because you don’t like the (potential!) behavior of some of the people at Storytime . . . That is a problem. If you do this, then I will war against you until the purple cows come home.

Perhaps it is not too late to save Williams from itself. Storytime lives! Now, time to rescue the JA system . . . and academic freedom . . . and . . .

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Hopkins Hall Takeover

From the Times Union:

Student rally outside Hopkins Hall at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts in support of black students’ demands, April 7, 1969. Students from the college’s Afro-American Society took over the building, seeking demands to add African-American studies to the curriculum, diversify the faculty, and more.

Is the College planning any activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this event, perhaps the single most successful example of student activism in Williams history? Should it?

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BSU Town Hall, 5

“BSU holds town hall exploring affinity housing” is an excellent Record article by Kristen Bayrakdarian ’19. Let’s discuss! Day 5.

Students also questioned the potential effects of the absence of affinity housing and POC spaces on application and enrollment rates of students of particular identities. Liz Creighton, dean of admission and financial aid, provided data to that end.

Reading that sentence, I immediately suspected that Creighton ’01 was pulling a fast one on Bayrakdarian ’19. Creighton — perhaps as an inevitable requirement for her chosen career path — has no interest in (or ability to?) provide detailed data about admissions and enrollment. Recall some of her absurd claims during the Best College controversy of last fall. The article continues:

“Forty-five percent of students admitted to Williams end up enrolling,” she explained. “You’re right that we yield athletes at a higher rate, [meaning] they enroll at a higher rate than non-athletes, [but] beyond that, across the range of other identities on campus, the yield is actually quite similar.”

The word “quite” is doing a lot of work in that quote.

1) Did Creighton provide the actual numbers? The Record should follow up! The more that we know about the admissions process, the better.

2) Consider my (sophisticated?) analysis of the public data for the class of 2021. Key table:

admi2

I think that Williams yields white students around 4 times the rate at which it yields black students. Is Creighton a liar or a fool for claiming that the rates are “quite similar?”

Neither! She just knows that students are uninformed, that the Record is unsophisticated and that no one is going to call her on this nonsense.

Students brought up that forming communities in college is considered by many high school students when deciding which school to attend.

Exactly right. But this is why Creighton feels that she has to (?) mislead students. I would not be surprised if black high schools students find affinity housing attractive and that a Williams with such housing would yield more black students. But Creighton does not want the discussion to go down that path so she doesn’t tell black students the truth about yield rates.

One student pointed out that heterosexual white men are actually a minority on this campus. The student explained that when one takes race, economic class and sexual and gender identities into account, minority groups make up a large percentage of the student body. Official College statistics on class data state that around 40 percent of the school identifies as POC. However, this statistic does not take into account other minority groups such as first-generation, low-income or LGBTQ+ students.

Indeed. That student ought to write for EphBlog! Sure seems like your views are marginalized at Williams today . . .

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BSU Town Hall, 4

“BSU holds town hall exploring affinity housing” is an excellent Record article by Kristen Bayrakdarian ’19. Let’s discuss! Day 4.

The Town Hall began with personal anecdotes from current Black first-years, who discussed their feelings of tokenization within entries and the lack of POC Junior Advisors (JAs), particularly Black JAs to whom they felt comfortable turning to.

1) Are Blacks — is capitalization now de riguer in this, the year of our Lord 2018? — “tokens” at Williams? Depends on your point of view. 90%+ of the Black students at Williams would not have been admitted were it not for their Black’ness. (Harvard accepts every Black applicant with Williams-caliber academic qualification and yields every (?) cross-admit with Williams.) The College ensures that Black students are distributed across the entries. (Details, on this, please. My guess would be that the College likes to place exactly two black students in as many entries as it can.) Is such behavior consistent with “tokenization?”

2) Is there really a shortage of Black JAs? I count no fewer than 8 out of 45! Black students are dramatically over-represented among JAs.

There was discussion of the burden Black first-years, and Black students in general, feel to “educate” their non-Black peers at a time when they themselves are trying to learn, dissect and understand their own experiences.

This is the paradox which must drive Williams administrators (and faculty?) crazy. There are two ways we might treat group X at Williams.

1) Treat membership in group X as irrelevant, be “blind” to whether someone is or is not X. This is how I conduct my own teaching.

2) Make special efforts to seek comments from X’s if the topic before the class has to do with X.

Choosing path 2, although theoretically desirable — what is the point of letting in a student with 1200 SATs if they are not going to enrich the education of their peers with comments that only they are qualified to make? — can generate significant push-back, as above.

Current and past Black JAs also spoke on their varying experiences. Alia Richardson ’19, co-chair of BSU and a JA to the class of 2021, described her own first-year experience as a positive one, stating that she “had a really good experience [and] made a lot of close friends,” and that she spent her time as a JA trying to recreate that positive entry experience for her own first-years. Jazmin Bramble ‘20, current JA to the class of 2022, described her first-year experience as “[neither] positive nor negative.” Bramble discussed how, early on in her first year, one of her JAs, a POC, explained to her that “the [entry] system itself wasn’t going to benefit [her],” so her goal was to simply create a comfortable space within the entry.

I bet that that JA has a very different take on her interactions with Bramble . . .

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BSU Town Hall, 3

“BSU holds town hall exploring affinity housing” is an excellent Record article by Kristen Bayrakdarian ’19. Let’s get back to that discussion! Day 3.

Discussion of the entry experience interweaved with ideas about what affinity housing could potentially look like at the College. Rocky Douglas ’19, co-chair of BSU, explained how as a first-year she experienced constant microaggressions and felt obligated to educate her peers, ultimately leading to intense feelings of isolation.

I wonder what Douglas’s definition of a microagression might be. Voting Republican? Questioning the College’s affirmative action policy? Telling the (fascinating!) story of Bernard Moore?

“Thank God I found Rice House [a Davis Center house autonomously managed by BSU]” Douglas said, describing Rice House as “this space I could go to and connect with upperclassmen, feel safe and not deal with microaggressions or feelings of alienation. I was in a space that was made with me in mind.” This idea of a space created by and for students of color was described as a central feature of potential affinity housing.

Students interested in pursuing this topic, should propose something like what Amherst has.

Spanish Language House

The Spanish Language House is an academic Theme House, located in Newport House, on the Amherst College campus, which can accommodate about fifteen students plus three Spanish Language Assistants. It is governed by the faculty of the Spanish Department, and administered by the Dean of Students through the Residential Life Department.

If Amherst students have that — not to mention Charles Drew House — then why couldn’t Williams students have a Bolin House, governed by the faculty of the Africana Studies Department?

Back to the Record:

Some attendees likened affinity housing to current housing for student-athletes. “Right now, we have a lot of houses on Hoxsey Street or off-campus houses that unofficially serve as affinity spaces for student athletes … whereas there are no other spaces that can be claimed by students of other identities in that same way,” Richardson said.

Williams is (superficially?) a much more racially “diverse” place — meaning fewer white people of traditional stock — than it was 30 years ago. No complaints from EphBlog on that account! We want the smartest students from around the world, regardless of the color of their skin.

But the second biggest change in student life may have been the ever-increasing isolation of athletes from other parts of the student community. For example, members of the lacrosse team are much more likely to live with each other now, including off-campus, then they were back in the day.

There are about 100 recruited athletes in every Williams class. I think almost every one of them, after first year, lives in a rooming group with at least one other member of their team. I think a large percentage (a majority?) might live only with members of their team. The Record should do some reporting about this.

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Following investigation, College Council votes to retain treasurer; censures co-presidents

From the Record, Nicholas Goldrosen reports:

Last night, College Council (CC) voted 12-7 to retain Treasurer Spencer Carrillo ’20 and mandated he attend educational sanctions to improve his performance. CC also voted 11-7 to censure CC Presidents Lizzy Hibbard ’19 and Moisés Roman Mendoza ’19 for raising the charges against Carrillo without placing it on the agenda or notifying CC before the Nov. 13 meeting.

I think many students expected disciplinary action against the Treasurer, but a surprise censure against the Co-Presidents was certainly unexpected! (and in my opinion, welcome.)

The vote followed a report by the Student Government Conduct Committee (SGCC), chaired by CC’s Vice President for Student Organizations Maria Heredia ’20 and Vice President for Community and Diversity Shane Beard ’20, which found Carrillo failed to meet some of his duties but recommended against removal. CC did not livestream or record the meeting – in contravention of its own bylaws – and made all votes taken during the meeting anonymous, asking CC members to close their eyes.

This is kind of childish. The meetings should be recorded and all votes should be public. This is the elected student council.

Hibbard and Roman Mendoza presented the case against Carrillo. They reported that he failed to close out CC’s accounts on time over the summer and delayed the College’s audit, failed to file vouchers – as noted by administrators in the Controller’s Office and the Office of Student Life – and communicated unprofessionally and unreliably with CC subgroup treasurers, the CC presidents and the Minority Coalition chairs.

During the summer and fall, Carrillo responded simply “No” or “No thank you” to numerous requests from Hibbard and Roman Mendoza to discuss his performance. “Moises and I tried reaching out to Spencer privately many times, spoke with multiple administrators, and brought this issue up at the CC executive meeting prior to discussing it in general Council,” Hibbard said. “We regret it had to rise to this level. As per the CC Constitution the presidents have the sole responsibility to ‘set the agenda for the College Council.’”

Indeed, these complaints are problematic. Do they warrant removal? I’m not so sure. I think with only a couple of weeks left in the term, the entire charade could have been avoided, but it is good to air grievances so that they may be avoided by future treasurers.

Carrillo defended his performance. Regarding the summer transfers, he wrote, “That error was not a result of my malpractice…it was clearly confirmed to me by a previous Treasurer that when I completed the transfers didn’t matter.” He also alleged that the submission of many vouchers was not his job, but the assistant treasurer’s, and defended his communication style: “If I am emailing someone who I know well or am friends with, I am not going to go through the tedium of drafting a formal letter to them.”

The Treasurer here appears to make excuses for himself, of which I am not particularly fond, but his overall point is clear: He was not trained properly, leading him to make these mistakes, and some of the charges were bogus tacked on to make the entire process seem more valid.

Other representatives called for consideration of the method by which Hibbard and Roman Mendoza brought the matter up on Nov. 13, which they percieved as inappropriate. “Any president bringing complaints forward in such a way, effectively lambasting a council member in public for what came off as personal reasons, is acting in a way that is distasteful, unwarranted, and unprecedented. It is something that cannot be tolerated by this or any Council moving forward,” said Representative Lance Ledet ’21.

Ledet’s comments are valuable. The President’s actions should certainly be condemned. Take a look at those minutes.

Thoughts on this debacle? The article, as well as the accompanying documents presented to CC, can be found here. 

UPDATE: Permanent pdf of the report, which is remarkably well-done.

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Record Assignment Desk

The next issue of the Record (the last of the semester) has a chance to be epic, to be read widely within the Williams community and across the country. Free speech is hot, Hot, HOT and the Record is well-positioned to cover the debate. My advice (somewhat cribbed from two years ago):

1) Pick up the phone! The Record‘s continuing refusal to talk to people like, well, me, who know a great deal about the institution is annoying. They don’t have to quote me — indeed, I might prefer for the talk to be on background — or do what I say, but a failure to even talk with knowledgeable sources is pathetic.

2) Report the facts. We know that the three key faculty behind the petition are Luana Maroja, Steven Gerrard, and David Gürçay-Morris ’96 but I believe that there were three others in the original “group of six.” Who were they? And tell us more details about the backstory. Gerrard, at least, has been wrestling with this topic for a while, teaching an entire course about free speech. Was he the prime mover? (If so, he was smart to recruit/cajole Maroja. White men are unwise to lead these sorts of efforts at Williams!)

3) Seek comment from Adam Falk. He may not provide one but, even then, you should tell us that he refused to comment. Quiz him about the op-ed in which he urged students “to seek out someone whose opinions and beliefs are different than their own, and to engage in a conversation to really listen and learn from one another.” Fun stuff!

4) Cover the history of speech debates/suppression at Williams. I believe that, prior to John Derbyshire, no speaker has been banned at Williams for 150 years. The last documented case was Mark Hopkins banning Ralph Waldo Emerson. Tell us more about this history, and seek some comments from history professors at Williams.

5) Provide a comparison to other NESCAC/elite schools. Ask Amherst and Swarthmore if they have ever banned a speaker. Ask them if they ever would. They might use this occasion to make fun of Williams. Ask them if they have any official policies which would prevent their students from inviting any speaker to campus. Place Williams policy — which, right now, is that the president can ban whomever she likes — in the context of our peers’.

6) Interview prominent alumni who have experience with, or expertise in, campus speech debates. Start with Cappy Hill ’75 (who faced similar issues when president of Vassar and is now on the board at Yale), Will Dudley ’89 (who has his own set of challenges at Washington and Lee), Fred Lawrence ’77, and Zach Wood ’18. Lawrence and Wood testified before the Senate about this very issue.

7) Interview leading faculty opponents of free speech. Start with Kai Green, Kimberly Love and Joy James. Ask them tough questions: “Professors at places like Michigan, Amherst and Harvard can invite any speaker they want to campus. Do you prefer that you and your Williams faculty colleagues have fewer rights, that the President of Williams can, for any reason, deny your invitation to a speaker? What would you do if, for example, Maud Mandel rescinded your invitation to Angela Davis on the grounds that she had engaged in “hateful” speech toward police officers?”

8) Interview leading student opponents of free speech. (Not sure who those would be. Perhaps start with the first few signatures on the student petition: Isabel Peña ’19, Audrey Koh ’21 and Annalee Tai ’21) Ask them a similar question: “Students at places like Michigan, Amherst and Harvard can invite any speaker they want to campus. Do you prefer that you and your Williams peers have fewer rights, that the President of Williams can, for any reason, deny your invitation to a speaker? What would you do if, for example, Maud Mandel rescinded your invitation to a leader of Black Lives Matter on the grounds that he had engaged in “hateful” speech toward police officers?”

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BSU Town Hall, 2

“BSU holds town hall exploring affinity housing” is an excellent Record article by Kristen Bayrakdarian ’19. Let’s discuss! Day 2.

One of the final topics addressed was the College’s potential adoption of “The Chicago Statement On Free Speech,” also known as the “Chicago principles.”

Hooray! EphBlog votes Yes! This is the perfect way to close the chapter on Adam Falk and his stupid decision to ban John Derbyshire.

President Maud Mandel spoke about a petition that has been circulating amongst faculty requesting that Williams sign the Chicago Principles.

Mandel is smart enough that she would not have brought up this topic if she were not in favor of it, and if she did not expect it to happen. Hooray for Maud Mandel!

Who is circulating this petition? What, exactly, does it say? Details, please!

But note also the counter-petition we mentioned last night.

Though she encouraged students to look up the Chicago principles themselves to get a better understanding of what they are, Mandel described them as “a kind of high-level set of principles encouraging the university to have a stance towards speakers; [that is,] anybody should be allowed to be invited to the campus that anyone in the campus community wants to have come.” According to Forbes, since February 2018, at least 35 universities have adopted the Chicago principles.

For related discussion, read about the Woodward Report.

This brought up questions among attendees about the role of Uncomfortable Learning, a group that frequently brings controversial speakers on campus.

Uncomfortable Learning is dead and buried, after 5 years of excellent work. Zach Wood ’18 has many strengths, but he never had much (any?) interest in what happened to UL after he left Williams. It had served his purposes, and served them well.

Much of the discussion was centered around students’ qualms with the lack of academic value of many of these speakers. Some worried about the effects of people spouting hateful or even false rhetoric and refusing to engage with students or faculty in non-combative ways, in contrast to the legitimacy that an appearance at the College might lend these views.

Good stuff! Let’s debate those views. Invite me to campus Maud Mandel! You will seem like a reasonable centrist — even if you sign the Chicago Principles — as long as you can contrast yourself against someone like me.

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BSU Town Hall, 1

“BSU holds town hall exploring affinity housing” is an excellent Record article by Kristen Bayrakdarian ’19. Let’s discuss! Day 1.

On Sunday, the Williams College Black Student Union (BSU) organized a town hall in Griffin Hall on affinity housing and Davis Center renovations. As the event flyer read, the gathering was to be “a space for students, particularly Black students, to reflect on recent events and the general student experience here,” granting students the opportunity “to voice concerns and work towards solutions.” The meeting was attended by students of varying racial, economic and sexual identities, as well as by a few members of the staff and faculty, including President Maud Mandel. Topics of discussion included affinity housing and the upcoming housing lottery, the existence or nonexistence of Black spaces on campus, the difficulties of the entry system for people of color (POC), experiences with Campus Safety and Security (CSS) and the potential for the College to adopt “The Chicago Statement on Free Speech.”

1) Kudos to Kristen Bayrakdarian for some fine reporting. Has anyone else noticed an improvement in Record quality this year?

2) Williams, ever since the elimination of fraternities more than 50 decades ago, has never been sympathetic to the notion of reserved “spaces” on campus, nor for anything much like “affinity housing.” The last opportunity for changes in this attitude was during Morty’s Neighborhood Housing Disaster. But, even then — when the entire Administration was looking for ways to make a wildly unpopular plan more palatable to students — the very DNA of Williams seemed against any notion of affinity housing. Indeed, the major driver of Neighborhood Housing was precisely Morty’s desire to stop student self-segregation, which meant keeping the African-American students (and the male helmet-sport athletes) from living all together.

3) Advice to students seeking change: Look towards Amherst.

As part of the system of social and residential life, students have been encouraged to form Theme Communities under the sponsorship of faculty advisors. Students submit proposals for theme living to the College Council, which accepts the proposals and allocates space for the programs when there is a clear linkage between student efforts to pursue or realize the College’s central educational and cultural ideals and residential life.

Although racial segregation is not something that Amherst wants, there is no doubt that, for example, Charles Drew is the Black House, that La Casa is the Hispanic House and so on.

Could Williams ever move in this direction? Perhaps. Interested students should contact me for advice.

Full Record article below:
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an unofficial guide to navigating williams

Interesting document (pdf): “an unofficial guide to navigating williams.”

Outside of annoyance with the hipster refusal to use capital letters, do our readers have comments? Do they want comments from me? This guide generated some controversy in September.

David Johnson ’71, associate dean of the College and dean of first year students, had a more mixed reaction to the guide. In the guide, he was personally accused of racism. “I’m disappointed that it has to be so personally hurtful in a way but, without names attached, I’m limited in what I can do in reaction,” he said. “I’m anxious to always do better, so I want to learn and grow. To be given a chance to do that by the student community is all I ask for. I love my job, and I’m going to continue to do it, and I feel like I’ve done a good job in 99 percent of the cases, so I’m not going to panic.”

The social justice left tried to destroy Storytime. They have attacked the JA system. Now they are after Dean Dave. How long before the Trustees recognize what a threat these people are to the Williams that they know and love?

Worth a week or more of commentary?

Full Record article:

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Future of the JA System in Doubt?

I would not be surprised if the JA system disappeared in the next decade or so.

1) Would people like more coverage of this topic? There have been a bunch of Record articles over the last few years, but they are no longer easily available.

2) The key characteristics of the JA system, and what makes it different from similar systems at peer schools, include:

JAs are undergraduates. (Proctors at Harvard are college graduates.)
JAs are unpaid. (Yale pays its counselors — “FroCos” — by giving money which is applied to food/board charges.)
JAs are chosen by other students. (No elite college I know of gives students such power.)
JAs, although connected/watched/supported/supervised by Williams, are given more freedom than their peers at other schools.

3) In her talk with alumni volunteers yesterday, Dean Marlene Sandstrom mentioned the recent problems with too few JA applications, and with too few applications for other leadership positions as well. She attributed much of this to students who felt (and whose families felt) that the College should not be asking them to do so much without paying them for their labor. She also mentioned that the College, although it does not “pay” JAs, does release JAs on financial aid from their on-campus employment obligation.

4) The College’s bureaucracy continues its endless growth. All those bureaucrats need to fill their days somehow. Selecting, paying and controlling JAs would be a natural thing for them to do.

The future? Who knows! But Sandstrom’s initial opening — which was far from a random riff — seemed designed to prepare these alumni volunteers for changes which they might not like . . .

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Storytime, 4

Interesting article in the Record about the (temporary, one hopes!) demise of Storytime. Let’s spend 4 days going through it! Day 4.

“One change that we have already made is having a new advisor, Bilal [Ansari], so that we can be directly connected to the Davis Center,” the board wrote. Ansari, who became the advisor this month, described Storyboard as “thoughtful and caring and genuinely concerned about doing things the right way.”

“I love Storyboard,” he said. “I love Storytime. I love what it means. I love what it could mean. It is a place for meaning – it is a meaningful place – that should not stop here. It is really an identifying, unique space that captures in a small time and space the essence of what this place is all about.”

Let’s leave a thorough discussion of Ansari’s bio for another day, except for two items.

Bilal began his community activism in 1994 in Oakland, California at the height of the Rodney King Uprisings.

The Rodney King Uprisings — (?) riots is the more common term — were in 1992.

Bilal is a legacy staff member: His great-grandfather and great-grandmother worked at Williams for 40 years.

Cool! Would love to see a Record article about that, or/and about multi-generational staff in general.

Is Ansari the hero or the villain of this particular story? As long as Storytime comes back quickly, he is the hero.

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Storytime, 3

Interesting article in the Record about the (temporary, one hopes!) demise of Storytime. Let’s spend 4 days going through it! Day 3.

In the last week of the spring semester, Storyboard went on a retreat “organized to consider and address recent conversations on campus surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion with regards to the space we create,” the members of Storyboard wrote. It was then that Storyboard decided to put Storytime on hold.

“Upon realizing how unclear our mission was and the potential need for dramatic change to the preparation and execution of Storytime, we thought it would be most responsible for Storytime to take a sabbatical,” Storyboard wrote.

Bad call, although I can sympathize with the pressure that Storyboard was under. When the PC mob comes from you, it does not care how much good you have done for the community before.

Storyboard will use this break to clarify its mission and make changes to Storytime based on student input. “As Storytime is for the community and not for the Board, we do not feel that we can dictate how Storytime should change,” Storyboard wrote.

Sure you can! Or, rather, only you can decide if Storytime lives on. Don’t let the SJWs destroy one of the many things that makes Williams wonderful.

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Storytime, 2

Interesting article in the Record about the (temporary, one hopes!) demise of Storytime. Let’s spend 4 days going through it! Day 2.

According to Bilal Ansari, Assistant Director of The Davis Center and advisor to Storyboard, the board’s decision to pause Storytime fits into a broader campus movement about “the consumption of black stories, black lives and black narratives.”

The snake of PC gibberish is devouring its own tail, once again. Consider the first 50 or so Storytime speakers. You could never hope to find a more diverse group of Ephs. And, by all accounts, that tradition continued. Storytime has never been about the “traditional” Williams, the Williams of wealth and whiteness, of prep schools and Nantucket vacations. (Not that there is anything wrong with those things!) Storytime has always been a place for all Ephs, but especially for those Ephs whose stories are different, who feel out of place, who want to tell the community of Ephs their stories, and be listened to in return.

This movement took hold following the performance of Ars Nova’s Underground Railroad Game last spring, according to Ansari. The show, created and performed by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard and directed by Taibi Magar, is a provocative comedy about confronting America’s history of slavery, according to The Berkshire Eagle.

The performance at the College sparked controversy, Ansari said. “It had to do with the depiction of African-Americans as slaves, scenes of painful episodes of our enslavement for comedic consumption on the stage and dolls in blackface on the flyers of advertisement,” he added. “Black people were in the audience, and we were experiencing it in tears while our white friends were experiencing it laughing.”

What is Ansari’s role in all of this? I would like to hear from some students.

If I were a Trump supporter on campus — as about 10% of students are — I would be laughing. I would, needless to say, never bothered to attend something as tendentious-seeming as Underground Railroad Game. My white, well-meaning, SJW friends would have gone, of course. But attending is not enough, in these PC times. You can’t just engage in the “the consumption of black stories.” You have to consume them in the right way. Laugh at the wrong times, or in the wrong way, and you are just another racist.

The aftermath of the show led to the creation of a movement, organized by a former Minority Coalition (MinCo) co-chair, called ‘At What Cost?’

Details, please. Does this co-chair have a name? (Looks to be Zeke King Phillips ’18.) “At What Cost?” is also (coincidentally?) the name of a Gaudino project from 2015.

“It sparked some powerful and introspective conversations,” Ansari said. “Students began to say, ‘Let’s call a pause on anything to do with painful stories where people are just sitting there laughing or consuming others’ pain without a deeper effort at community building.’ And so because of that kind of confluence between different things that were going on around campus, Storytime did some self-reflection, asking questions like, ‘What is our mission? What is our purpose? What are we really meaning to do with this space and this time?’”

Which “students” began to say this? If this was the members of the Storytime Board (Chris Avila, Angela Yu, Louisa Kania, Emma Reichheld, Maya Jasinska and Hannah Goldstein), then fine. It is their organization. But if other students were asking for (demanding?) a pause, then that is a problem. Note this sentence from the Storytime Board’s Record op-ed:

The abundance of campus conversations surrounding identity and privilege, inclusion and equity, along with individuals expressing their discomfort with Storytime instilled our conversations with greater urgency.

Emphasis added. Sure seems like some SJWs went after Storytime. And now it is cancelled. So let’s all just go to the football game!

At this point, we feel that this dialogue has been too insular. We want to be transparent and collaborative with the rest of the College community. To begin we reached out to Bilal Ansari, assistant director of the Davis Center to help, and we are grateful that he agreed to advise our board.

Possible translation: We needed a black guy to help us fend off attacks from the SJWs.

Historical footnote: I suspect that Emma Reichheld is the daughter of Jim Reichheld ’87, a campus leader 30 years ago and the Eph most responsible for the use of interviews during the JA selection process. A tendency toward campus service is genetic, as are many things that matter.

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Storytime, 1

Interesting article in the Record about the (temporary, one hopes!) demise of Storytime. Let’s spend 4 days going through it! Day 1.

Storyboard halts Storytime as it reevaluates its mission

On Sep. 26, Storyboard, the group behind Storytime, announced the decision to put a temporary hold on Storytime, citing the need to reflect on its mission and make changes to the event. The sabbatical has no firm end date, but Storyboard hopes to “revive a storytelling space, in a form that is to be determined by the community, by the end of the semester,” the board wrote in an email to the Record.

Kudos to reporter Irene Loewenson. The article, like much of the recent reporting in the Record, is excellent. Two quibbles:

1) Provide a link to your source documents. Show us the entire e-mail. I realize that the Record is technologically backwards, but Lowenson could, on her own, put those docs somewhere and just add a link in the comment box below the on-line version of the article.

2) Say it ain’t so, Rachel Ko ’09! Every single Record article about Storytime needs to mention Rachel Ko ’09, Storytime’s founder. Few (any?) students at Williams have had more of a longterm impact on Williams than she had. Say her name!

“In the past year, Storyboard has been grappling with its mission and questions such as: how does one’s identity inform one’s experience as a speaker and a listener?” the six students who make up Storyboard wrote last Wednesday evening in an email to the student body. “Thus, we have decided to put Storytime as usual on hold, as we open up this conversation to the entire Williams community.”

Huh? Storytime is amazing, wonderful, priceless. Why do we need to put it on hold? Every week that goes by without someone getting the chance to tell their story, and the rest of us getting a chance to listen, is week wasted.

Storytime, the weekly gathering in which a member of the community shares a personal story to a crowd on the second floor of Paresky, is a College hallmark. The optional writing supplement for applicants to the College mentions Storytime; one of the three prompts reads, “Each Sunday night, in a tradition called Storytime, students, faculty and staff gather to hear a fellow community member relate a brief story from their life (and to munch on the storyteller’s favorite homemade cookies). What story would you share?”

Why hasn’t Rachel Ko been awarded a Bicentennial Medal yet? She is much more deserving than many of the mediocrities the College has been honoring over the last few years. And she is a woman! And not white! What’s not to love?

Experienced Williams observers, whenever they see something inexplicable like the end (?) of Storytime, always suspect PC nonsense as the underlying cause. And so it is in this case! More tomorrow . . .

Historical note for Storyboard: Your organization was established in 2007, not 2005.

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Ephs Can Choose

WSO hackers like pizza. Thirteen years ago, they (jokingly) solicited PayPal donations for their pizza fund. I bought them $200 worth. This made them happy, since neither College Council nor the Williams Administration is likely to fund their eating habits. It made me happy because I got to contribute something small but tangible to a student group that I like and respect. Every Eph wins.

Why doesn’t this sort of interaction happen more often between students and alumni? The College wants to control the money. It does not trust students to ask for reasonable things. It does not trust alumni to refrain from funding unreasonable requests. It worries that student awkwardness will harm its relationships with alumni donors.

A decade ago, College Council co-presidents presidents Jeremy Goldstein ’09 and Peter Nurnberg ’09 sought to allow alumni (like me) to donate money directly to student groups (like WSO) — money that would fund specific purchases (like pizza) that the College has decided, for whatever reason, not to fund. This is similar in spirit to DonorsChoose, a non-profit organization that practices “Citizen Philanthropy” in public schools. Teachers submit requests for funding. Individual donors pick and choose among the requests. DonorsChoose spends the money and posts pictures/descriptions of the activities thereby funded, allowing donors to see immediately the good that their generosity has accomplished.

DonorsChoose is an excellent template for Williams, but one that the Administration will fight. My advice to those who seek to succeed where Goldstein/Nurnberg failed:

First, create a new organization. Call it EphsChoose. College officials will try to delay you, will insist that they are interested in working with you on this project. Trust me: they are not. They hate this idea. They will do everything they can to stop it, including every college officials’ favorite trick: smiling delay. If they can keep you busy with proposals and meetings for a few months, they know that you will lose interest and then graduate. You need an organization with an existence separate from Williams. After a few years, you might create a 501(c), registered in Massachusetts but that is not necessary at the start. If your plan is to work, you need a structure that will outlive your own time at the College.

Second, recruit an alumni board of directors for EphsChoose. Key criteria, besides a love for all things Eph, are wealth and a willingness to spend it on your cause. To get started, you don’t need a lot of money, but an initial donation of $10,000 would make other things easier. You need at least one lawyer on the board. Adding an alumnus from the faculty would provide credibility. Reach out to some of the prominent alumni who live in Williamstown.

Third, recruit a governing board of students. You need help. Ideally, your board will include students with the necessary skills: at least one technical whiz to run the Web site; one would-be lawyer interested in dealing with the documents; a treasurer to handle the finances; a photographer to document the projects; an operations person to keep track of all the details. Do not underestimate how much work will be involved. Recruit first-years.

Fourth, spread the word. What’s your motto? “Students ask. Alumni choose. Williams thrives.” would be one option, derived from that of DonorsChoose. Once your Web site is up and running, you will want to reach out far and wide. Many student groups have more projects than they have funds. Contact them. Reach out to alumni, especially those still in contact with student organizations. E-mail the officers of regional alumni groups. Use the Alumni Directory. Involve parents. Once your first few grants have been distributed, document the results.

Will it work? Maybe. Starting a new organization is not easy. Potential volunteers are busy. Paperwork is boring. Most importantly, the College will try to stop you — will insist that it is interested in your ideas and wants to “help” you. The Sirens of Hopkins Hall will claim that you don’t need a separate organization, that the Alumni Office is eager to assist you and that your effort falls naturally in the work that the College is already doing. Avoid those rocks.

Only a handful of students each year have an opportunity to change Williams in a permanent way. Few now remember the students of five or 10 years ago, not because they were bad people but because nothing they did has outlived their time at the College. You have a chance to fundamentally alter the relationship between Williams students and alumni, to draw the community of Ephs closer together now and forevermore. My pizza buying should not mark the high point of direct alumni donations to student groups. It should be just the start.

Original version published in the Record in 2008.

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Anyone Home at the Record?

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Students and Professors Rebuke The Transnational Solidarity Wall Statement

The response to the model wall erected on Paresky lawn has proven quite interesting. A freshman, motivated by concerns that the demonstration overstepped its critique of the Israel state from reasonable observations to outright antisemitism,  has penned his own rebuttal. Most importantly the student has allowed others to sign the letter in a show of solidarity.

The current signers cover a surprising amount of diversity. Some are Jews; some are Asians; some are Catholic; some are atheists; some are conservatives; others are progressive. About the only thing common among the signers is their status as either freshman or sophomores, but there are professors and seniors signers as well.

I know many of the signers, and I know that they aren’t apologists for everything Israel does. It’s a genuine display of solidarity against what they perceive to be antisemitism. While I’m not signing it, the significant presence of people willing to open themselves to possible backlash supporting a controversial position is a comforting thing, to me. It shows that there is still some intellectual diversity left in this campus.

Access the letter here, and please spread it. Whether you agree or disagree with its position, the community of Williams College ought to know that this wall has two different sides.

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Our Liberal Campus

From the Record in November 2015:

Over the past couple weeks, we have seen numerous articles about politics on campus, especially concerning Uncomfortable Learning. Ironically, though, other than from sources external to the College, there seem to have been few opinion pieces from conservative students. I would like to respond to previous opinions while also looking at some data.

It seems that a point mentioned in an opinion piece for the Williams Alternative, but glossed over as just matter-of-fact, is much more important than it appears. I am referring to how politically-concentrated the faculties and administrations are at most colleges. There exists a substantial amount of literature regarding this bias, but it is not something to just write off – these people determine most of the curriculum and rules for their respective colleges. Therefore, I decided to investigate how political donations break down among recent faculty and administration hires here at the College to get an idea of the diversity.

One can find public information on donations through the website of the Federal Election Commission (FEC). I used the FEC’s “Advanced Transaction Query by Individual Contributor” for political committees, including joint fundraising committees, to search for employees of the College.

After checking whether the employee was a professor, lecturer, instructor or administrator (rather than a student or member of the staff), it appears that of 111 considered political donations since 2007, 108, or 97.3 percent, went to Democratic and liberal organizations. Of 41 contributors, 40, or 97.6 percent, gave to liberal groups. By dollar amount, this is $39,210 out of $39,960 in total, or about 98.1 percent. These numbers don’t exactly scream any sort of political diversity.

Indeed. But even more worrying (to me) is how conservative students are treated. From the same op-ed by Matt Quinn ’17:

’d like to finish by sharing something that I observed at Williams for Life’s recent display on Planned Parenthood. Staff and faculty who saw the display were glad to see students discussing politics. Yet, as I mentioned, quite a few students reacted by questioning our sanity, throwing temper tantrums as they walked by and so on. There were still students who engaged with us, but the only sizable group that did so were not current students, but prospective students. Students from Windows on Williams were more than eager to respectfully talk about the contentious issues at hand. It’s unfortunate that the reaction among many current students is the exact opposite.

Indeed. Are pro-life views treated fairly at Williams?

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A Prediction on Political Discussions in Williams

As Williams enrolls Gen Zers, there’s going to be a resurgance of right-wing, populist views.

Not a dramatic paradigm shift, but a gradual gnawing away at the entrenched left-wing environment.

comp

This graph shows how Gen Z ‘voted’ in the 2016 election relative to voting adults. Trump’s platform focused mainly on nativism, and his incredible usage of online media complements Gen Z’s more tech-savvy nature.

The presence of the virgin Conservative Society is just the adumbration of this trend. The political atmophere in first year in this campus wouldn’t have even humored this organization.

Ultimately, I see what’s going to happen here as a microcosm of the Overton Window shifting across the nation. We won’t be seeing any varient of paleoconservatism on the rise here, because Trump’s ideology is one of mild reform, and that’s what makes him appealing to his supporters, but it’ll still be quite a sight to hear some now verboten topic echo throughout the halls and classrooms, as was the case not so long ago.

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Reply to Reische

Perfect response to Jim Reische’s New York Times article:

To the Editor:

Since we just served as editor in chief and senior editors of The Williams Record, Williams College’s independent student newspaper, Jim Reische’s article struck a chord with us. His reference to “a campus newspaper editorial that grapples with balancing free speech and appropriate behavior” was likely informed by a controversial Record editorial published in October 2015. We were on the board that composed that editorial, which advocated limitations to hateful but legally protected speech at Williams. We were widely and justifiably criticized for it, including in national media.

That mistake transformed how we tackle polarizing issues. The following semester, we published an editorial criticizing Williams’s president, Adam Falk, for canceling a controversial student-invited speaker. We saw tangible improvements in the board’s navigation of those difficult conversations: We respectfully challenged our peers’ opinions; we critically considered our own. Our editorial decisions, as the paper’s leaders for 2017, were not governed by fear of criticism, but rather an appreciation of it.

What we learned stuck with us as editors, and as young adults. We echo Mr. Reische’s hope that other students have the same opportunity to make mistakes — and be better for it.

MARIT BJÖRNLUND
EMMY MALUF
FRANCESCA PARIS
WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.

Great stuff! Comments:

1) I have had my problems with Emmy Maluf in the past, but the tone of this letter (and her leadership of the Record) both deserve high marks.

2) Although they are too polite to mention it directly, these students are directly contradicting Reische’s thesis. Reische argues that it is a bad thing that outsiders pay attention to what students write, especially when that writing includes “dumb mistakes.” The students argue that the exact opposite is true, using the same example that Reische cites. They learned from their dumb mistake because outsiders criticized it.

Needless to say, EphBlog agrees. When we criticize students, we are helping them, or at least trying to. We pay them the (ultimate) compliment of taking their ideas seriously. Jim Reische, on the other hand, wants us to treat college students like children. Who is right? The leaders of the Record, at least, agree with EphBlog!

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Gargoyle Fundraiser

Consider this solicitation (pdf) from the Gargoyle Society:

On this frigid homecoming day in Williamstown, I write to you as a fellow member of the Gargoyle Society because Gargoyle needs your help.

As you know, the Society has long been known as a positive agent of change at Williams−from the abolition of fraternities, the establishment of the College Council, to the creation of the JA system. More recently, we conducted a comprehensive reassessment of the Williams honor code, reviewed the role of alcohol on campus culture, and championed an increased focus on students’ mental health. In addition, Gargoyle made a key donation that helped ensure the completion of the new Sawyer library and reconstruction of the historic Preston room.

In the wake of decreased direct financial support from the College, however, that important donation has had a larger-than-expected impact on the Society’s limited endowment. As a result, Gargoyle’s efficacy has been limited. That is why we have come to you, notable alums of the Society, to ask for your help. So, please make a donation to the Gargoyle Society−in any amount. You played an important role in the Society’s lauded past, and we need you now to help ensure
its future.

1) If Gargoyle wants to raise money, it needs to be more engaged. For example, there is no way to find out the current members of Gargoyle or what they are working on. Past delegation membership was listed in WSO. Sometime in the last few years, some Gargoyles decided that they wanted to keep their membership secret. That is stupid, and makes money raising much harder. Why would anyone give money to a group with a secret membership? Gargoyle should tell all applicants for the 124th delegation that the membership will be public.

2) Is Gargoyle not subject to the rules associated with student fundraising? Recall the controversy over Uncomfortable Learning soliciting alumni to pay for speakers. From the Student Handbook:

Students who wish to raise money for any campus activity by soliciting alumni, foundations, or other sources of funds must receive advance approval. Students interested in fundraising should contact the Assistant Director for Student Involvement in the Office of Student Life at least two weeks in advance. Most fundraising requires approval from the Dean’s Office, the Provost, and the Vice President for College Relations.

I bet that Gargoyle did not receive approval since, I bet, the College never (?) allows student groups to raise money in this fashion.

3) I am in favor of direct solicitation of alumni. Recall:

WSO hackers like pizza. Three years ago, they (jokingly) solicited PayPal donations for their pizza fund. I bought them $200 worth. This made them happy, since neither College Council nor the Williams Administration is likely to fund their eating habits. It made me happy because I got to contribute something small but tangible to a student group that I like and respect. Every Eph wins.

Why doesn’t this sort of interaction happen more often between students and alumni? Because College bureaucrats trust neither students nor alumni to behave responsibly, at least as far as fund-raising is concerned. The College wants to control the money. It does not trust students to ask for reasonable things. It does not trust alumni to refrain from funding unreasonable requests. It worries that student awkwardness will harm its relationships with alumni donors.

Read the whole thing. If Gargoyle has not yet chosen a project for the year, creating Ephs Choose would be a worthy one.

4) Is it just me or does Gargoyle seem less effective/important recently? Back in the day, each Gargoyle worked on their own projects, sometimes along and sometimes with others. Gargoyle was a platform which engaged students could use to try to improve Williams however they saw fit. It was a useful platform because random administrator X was more likely to engage with you if you came to her as “Ephraim Williams, a member of Gargoyle” instead of “Ephraim Williams, random student.” Weekly meetings were useful because they provided a forum for updates, information sharing and encouragement. You felt bad if you weren’t accomplishing much on your project because you knew that your spot on Gargoyle could have gone to someone who would have worked hard.

Now, however, there is only one Gargoyle project each year. (Perhaps a recent Gargoyle could explain/clarify?) The entire delegation decides in the fall to work on X and then spends the year working on X. This seems a recipe for accomplishing nothing. First, what happens when members disagree about X? In the old days, that was not a problem because you worked on your project and I worked on mine. What happens when a member does not care about X? Why should she work on it? My concern is that Gargoyle has turned into a society which rewards people for what they have already done on campus rather than providing them with impetus for accomplishing more. If that concern has merit, I would predict that people like the editor of the Record and the co-presidents of College Council are more likely to be members now than they used to be. That is a mistake because those Ephs already have a platform to use and more than enough stuff to work on.

My advice: Go back to the old system of individual projects. Select next year’s members based on what they propose to improve at Williams and their likelihood of achieving their goals. Gargoyle membership is not a reward, it is a promise.

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Word that You’re Looking for is a Racist

From MassLive:

A “standard liberal” feminist author Williams College hosted this week ran afoul of some students in her audience, who ended up branding her “racist” and “white supremacist.”

Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, shared her views on feminism and identity politics at the Western Massachusetts institution.

Some of the attendees, including several students in the gender and women’s studies department, took issue with her talk.

Video was shot of the tense question and answer section featuring several students’ profanity peppered rants, insults on the Brandeis University alum’s scholarship and disruptive, derisive snickers.

1) I hope that the Record will provide thorough coverage of this event. Kudos to Zach Wood ’18 and Uncomfortable Learning for arranging the event!

2) In my fantasy world, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies paid for, or at least sponsored, the talk, all in the best spirit of uncomfortable learning. Odds of that being true?

3) It is good news that Williams, as an institution, is still bringing alternative viewpoints to campus. Very few among the powerful alumni who matter want Williams to turn into Swarthmore, much less Oberlin. Alas:

One student expressed frustration that Sommers was allowed to share her “harmful” message at the school and another, with contempt, referred to “people like you” before accusing the registered Democrat of being a white supremacist due to her chosen reading.

Over the last 15 years, the opinion that certain views — almost always views on the right — should not be allowed at Williams has grown shockingly common. I did not predict this trend. Did you? Yet the trend seems to be, if anything, getting stronger. How long before someone like Sommers (or Charles Murray) is prevented from coming to Williams?

To be fair, there is a bit of quote-mining going on above. It is not clear that this student really wants to prevent Sommers from speaking at Williams. Also, the Williams students in the clip are well-spoken. However, they also want to get rid of “capitalism!”(Start around minute 8:00.) And that get fairly angry toward the end . . .

The finger-snapping is annoying. When did that become common?

More video:

Zach does a nice job moderating and moving on to the next questioner.

Great question to Sommers at the end (paraphrased): “If US society is as fair toward women as you claim, then why aren’t, for example, women 50% of all Fortune 500 CEOs?”

In reply, Sommers declines to offer students the red pill . . . Does she even know about it? John Derbyshire would have given a very different answer to that question . . .

All-in-all, it is a good thing that Williams put on this event, bringing an outside speaker with a very different viewpoint to campus and making some students, at least for a bit, uncomfortable.

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BSU Town Hall Sunday Afternoon

Via Facebook:

We would like to invite you to a Town Hall Meeting with members of the Black community on campus and the Black Student Union.

Topics of Discussion Will Include:

– The relationship between Athlete and POC culture on campus
– Racism within the Dean’s Office
– An event that involved a fellow student and the law.

We encourage you to attend and participate in this meeting so that we as a Black Community can come to a consensus as to how we can continue to help each other by working together towards shared success despite any differences that we may have. We hope that each person that attends this meeting will leave with: a better understanding of any issues raised, a better understanding of the dynamics of the black community as a whole, and with further steps towards positive change.

We would like to remind you to come prepared and ready to have a civil debate and nothing less. The conversation will be moderated by the BSU Board and its faculty affiliates.

We have included some additional information on the topics that are going to be discussed, and encourage everyone to take a look at these materials before the meeting.

link

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Looking forward to seeing you there,
The Board

Any readers who attend the meeting should give us a report.

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To the Record Editorial Board: Do Your Job

The most annoying aspect of the debate over admissions is the College’s refusal to be honest with the community over the standards/processes that it uses. The second most annoying aspect is the Administrations laziness in not trying hard enough to recruit hard-to-enroll groups like high scoring African-Americans. The third most annoying aspect is today’s topic: the Record‘s failure to report the news.

Consider the Record‘s editorial on the infamous Best-College-in-the-World (BCW) op-ed:

The piece’s categorization of the College’s current admissions process as one in which student are labeled as “academic” or “other,” and where those comprising the “other” category are athletes, racial minorities or low-income students, is both misguided and, more crucially, demeaning.

“Misguided” and “demeaning” are, perhaps, relevant adjectives to include in an editorial. But intelligent readers are looking for adjectives like “inaccurate” or “incomplete.” Does the op-ed provide an accurate description of how the admissions process works at Williams or doesn’t it? Without that information, it is hard to judge anything else. And, if it is accurate, then adjectives like “demeaning” are confusing at best.

And it is the Record‘s primary function to inform its readers about how Williams works, to report, you know, the News. Hint to Record reporters: Start here. A fair complaint about Williams, relative to schools like Harvard, is that much of our conversation occurs at the level of an (excellent!) prep school, a place where, not only is the Administration rarely challenged (recent examples here and here) but where the details of actual policy are kept secret. Compare news stories in the Crimson versus those in the Record. It is too weep.

Of course, the Crimson has more people and resources than the Record. It is a daily, not weekly, effort. But there is no excuse for the Record to devote three pages of commentary to admissions at Williams while, at the same time, not explaining to its readers how admissions works.

The editorial concludes with:

Additionally, it is well understood that SAT scores are a poor metric of the quality of academic work that will be undertaken when a student comes to the College.

Then why does Williams use them! I don’t control Williams admissions. Adam Falk and Liz Creighton ’01 and Dick Nesbitt ’74 do. Why do they not only use the SAT/ACT but actually require that all applicants take these, and similar, standardized tests? Again, I am not so much angry with the Record as I am embarrassed for them. And, for the record, SAT scores (and Academic Rating) are an outstanding predictor of the grades that students will get at Williams.

Almost every sentence in the editorial is either factually suspect or childishly naive. Worth a week to go through it line-by-line?

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