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College Council Meeting Notes

The College Council provides a solid archive of meeting notes, going back to 2009. Still, I am very sad that it does not go back further. Who else remembers the glorious notes of Jonathan Landsman ’05?

Sadly, CC refuses (?) to make the notes for current meetings publicly available, even to alumni and local residents. Pathetic. Fortunately, we have our sources!

The April 16 minutes are available to students. The central debate about WIFI is covered fairly well.

The April 23 minutes are not available for download, even to students. But our sources are clever, so they provided some screen shots. See below the break. Example:

A full zip archive of meeting notes since 2016 is here.

Key points:

1) It was stupid for the Falk administration to change the rules and force student groups to seek recognition from College Council even if they were not seeking funding. (Falk and Co did this to make life more difficult for dissident groups like Uncomfortable Learning.) Student organizations can be trusted with many important decisions — selecting JAs, distributing funding — but not with this one.

2) Excessive student powers will be used against all unpopular groups, not just those unpopular with the Administration. By the way, BDS has yet to hit Williams in a big way. What happens when it does?

3) If Maud is smart, she will change the Student Handbook this summer to allow any student group to be created by simply submitting a form with the Dean’s Office. This will allow the group access to all the basic tools — like room reservations — that it needs to function. CC does not need to fund it, but they can’t ban it.

4) There are plenty of rich Jewish alumni that Maud will try to raise money from over the next few years. What do you think their views are on this topic?

5) College Council should just make its meeting notes and livestream public. The truth will come out anyway and, perhaps more important, a public livestream encourages better behavior from your guests.

Screen shots of minutes for April 23:

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Inside the Purple Rubble

I had a chance to review the video of the April 16, 2019 College Council meeting. It looked like a bomb crater. Many of the young white men who were verbally abused by black student leaders at the April 9, 2019 meeting were notably absent. Without them, the College Council could not establish a quorum.

Williams College Council April 16, 2019

Their best idea? Reach out to the wounded members and let them know it was safe to come back? No. Not at all.

Instead, the representatives in the room jokingly recruited other students to serve as “proxies” for the missing white students. This, as any high school student would know, is not how proxies work. This scheme became even more problematic when they realized the students who have volunteered to be proxies are also the same people who will be asking for money – a clear conflict of interest.

What was most troubling to me is there was absolutely no acknowledgement of the damage done. I saw no sense of corporate responsibility for the fact white students were basically boycotting the meeting.

One of the most cringe-worthy spectacles occurred when Bilal Ansari, the acting director of the Davis Center, addressed the students. Reading between the lines, it was clear to me that he knows Williams College would have been better off if the two black students vomiting out anti-white bigotry had worked through existing black- or minority-run campus groups instead of trying to create their own black preview events.

Ansari said that he understood the root causes of the student’s offensive tirade(s).

Nevertheless, he indicated (to the young white males who were not present) that he was there for them too. He even added, as far as I can tell, they had every right to push back whenever they are targeted with racially charged verbal abuse.

I suppose that this should give well-meaning observers some comfort. If the acting director of the Davis Center says it is okay to resist anti-white hate speech, then perhaps no one should put up with it again.

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Williams Initiative for Israel

A student reports that “Apparently there was huge commotion at CC last [Tuesday] night. I expect this to be picked up by national news outlets as the details of what happened are revealed.” From the Record:

Last night, College Council (CC) voted 13–8 with one abstention to reject a request from the Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) to become a registered student organization. The vote came a week after the club’s request was tabled at a previous CC meeting, and the meeting involved nearly two hours of protracted and heated debate among both CC members and a large number of guests attending.

Before the debate began, numerous members and guests expressed concerns that publicly revealing the names of those speaking, as CC has previously done to some extent through livestreams on its Facebook page and published minutes accessible to students at the College, would make students feel unsafe and prevent them from fully expressing their opinions. Several members and guests cited national news coverage of College events in recent weeks, including cases where specific students were mentioned by name, as justification for these concerns. CC ultimately decided to publish anonymous minutes accessible only to students with College emails.

This is a developing story, occurring exceptionally close to our print deadline.

The minutes are here, but inaccessible to me. Could someone post them in a comment?

The video for last week has some interesting discussion starting at the 25 minute mark . . .

“The state of Israel, at least if it’s not completely illegal . . .”

It is one thing for leftist students on campus to attack random WASPs, especially WASPs who might be Republican. But when they go after mainstream (?) Jewish organizations, they may be treated very differently . . .

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Affinity Housing, 2

The Record editorialized in favor of “affinity housing,” one of the demands made by CARE Now to both President Mandel (pdf) and the trustees. This means, more or less, reserving/restricting specific houses for/to black/Hispanic/Asian students. I have some small acquaintance with the history/politics/propaganda of Williams housing, so let’s dive in. Day 2.

Note the subhead of the Record editorial:

Creating space for minoritized students

“[M]inoritized” is not a word that I recall from 10 or even 5 years ago. When did it first become common usage at Williams? For (at least) the last 50 years, before the Great Awokening, this would have been phrased: “Creating space for minority students.” Why the change?

My guess: “minoritized” is now preferred to “minority” because a minority is what you are while being “minoritized” is something that is done to you. (Contrary opinions welcome!)

The longevity of this issue demonstrates that the call for affinity housing will not extinguish over time, so long as the College fails to address the residential needs of the marginalized members of its community.

This is the opposite of the truth. That the College has successfully resisted calls for black-only housing for 50 years indicates that it is likely to be able to do so forever. Moreover, the primary purpose of Neighborhood Housing, instituted more than a decade ago and then abandoned, was to prevent student self-segregation, primarily of African-Americans and male helmet-sport athletes. Williams does not care if black students constantly campaign for affinity housing. It has successfully stymied their preferences for five decades!

Furthermore, affinity housing has successfully been implemented by many of the College’s peer institutions, including Amherst, Bates and Wesleyan.

Evidence? If only Williams had a competent student paper which might, you know, report on what is happening at other schools. If the Amherst theme houses are so successful, then why are students only allowed to live in them for 2 years?

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Affinity Housing, 1

The Record editorialized in favor of “affinity housing,” one of the demands made by CARE Now to both President Mandel (pdf) and the trustees. This means, more or less, reserving/restricting specific houses for/to black/Hispanic/Asian students. No one knows more about the history/politics/propaganda of Williams housing than I do, so let’s dive in. Day 1.

Start with the Record:

Affinity housing, the third of CARE Now’s 12 demands, has been advocated for by students as early as 1969, when the Afro-American Society, which occupied Hopkins Hall in demonstration, named affinity housing as one of its demands.

Has anyone at the Record talked to someone who could explain this history? I doubt it! Although I occasionally hold out hope for individual reporters, like Arrington Luck, the Record, as an organization, is positively amateurish in its refusal to seek out knowledgeable sources. It is true that, for 50 years, students have wanted racial segregation in housing and the College has refused to provide it. Does that tell you something? It should!

The College did not respond to the Afro-American Society’s demands and has continually ignored such demands.

How stupid is the Record? The College has “respond[ed]” to these demands over and over and over again. The answer is always the same: No! If you choose to come to Williams, you are going to live in a building with students of a different race. Don’t want that? Go elsewhere.

We at the Record wholeheartedly support establishing affinity housing at the College.

Doesn’t the Record understand how Williams works? If you want actual change — as opposed to the childish pleasure of virtue-signalling on the front page — you support the creation of a high-profile committee.

[W]e must recognize that the College is a predominantly white institution in which students of color often feel tokenized, both in their residences and more broadly on campus.

Is the College really a “predominantly white institution” and, if so, how long will this continue? Whites, in the latest class at Harvard, are a minority. There are more Asian-Americans than whites, in raw numbers, at the highest levels of high school academic achievement. An actual news organization might, you know, do some reporting on this topic, might point out that, in the Williams class of 2022 (pdf), only 263 of the 533 students are white, non-Hispanic Americans. That is only 49%. White Americans are already a numerical minority among Williams first years.

The reason that black/Hispanic students “often feel tokenized” is, first, because the people that run Williams are, on this dimension at least, not very good at their jobs and, second, because these students often are, precisely, “tokens.” At least 50% (probably closer to 90%) of the black/Hispanic students at Williams would not have been accepted if they did not check that box.

Complete Record editorial and CARE Now demands below:
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“Why Aren’t You Listening?” — Full Livestream Reupload

For anyone who cares about the past, present, and future of Williams College, this video is a vital historical document of campus life in 2019. College Council’s decision to remove it from their Facebook page was, I assume, an unfortunate concession to student activist demands that all this stuff be kept under the table. I’m a current student who luckily saved a copy of the livestream from that meeting just before they took it down this weekend.

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The Left Eats Its Own Café

Over at The College Fix this morning, there is an article by Rory Walsh reporting on the  shocking livestream video posted on Facebook by the College Council.

Black students explode in anger at white students in vulgarity-laced rant (VIDEO)

In his article, Walsh provides us with redacted examples of the profane language used by I.B. as he called out liberal white student representatives for the way they dealt with an earlier request by S.O. for funding for a preview event for black students.

“… It’s time for you’all to figure this sh*t out and check yourself because I’m really losing it,” he said. “We are f***ing tired of having to come and beg and suck d***. And of course when we come and do it we face problems all the f***ing time.”

“… Every time to be here is like sucking white d*** every f***ing day,” he said. “Closing our mouths every f***ing day just to be here. And if we dare ask for a little bit of time, money and space we gotta suck some more d***. … It is so frustrating. It’s so tiring … to be here. To deal with you’all.”

“We keep our heads down, it don’t work,” he said. “We try to create space for us, it don’t work. We want some money to f***ing cook some fried f***king chicken and be n*****s for once, it don’t work. I just don’t get it.”

Walsh cites comments I made at my Anonymous Political Scientist blogsite too. He notes I had observed the video “…is an excellent example of the sort of political abuse that tore down Evergreen State College.”

Walsh reports that The College Fix attempted to reach several members of the College Council as well as administration for a statement. They have yet to respond.

The comments on Walsh’s article are generally adverse to the student activists.

Another tasty serving at The Left Eats Its Own Café.

What the Alt Left doesn’t understand is that white people aren’t out to get black people; they are just exhausted with them. They are exhausted by the social pathologies, the violence, the endless complaints, the blind racial solidarity, the bottomless pit of grievances, the excuses, and the reflexive animosity.

Williams is about as left wing as a functioning college can be. Blacks need to move across the river to SUNY Albany.

You’re not trying to create a community. You’re trying to create a segregated, black racist bubble. The campus in its entirety is your community, and if you don’t like it, you can always transfer.

Just for the record: I’m not Black and I love fried chicken.

According to his biography, Rory Walsh studies industrial labor relations, American politics, and business at Cornell University. He has interned for former New York Congresswoman Claudia Tenney. After completing his undergraduate degree he plans to study law and business.

 

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Why Aren’t You Listening? – Partial Transcript

I have loaded a partial transcript of some of the most offensive and extreme comments made at the CC meeting. I created it by leveraging the Word document posted on Ephblog and then reviewing the video. It is shocking stuff. There is evidence in this video of a lot of dysfunction including the efforts of one speaker to shame student representative Tristan Whalen for seemingly not listening respectfully enough to a stream-of-consciousness tirade of anti-white bigotry.

To his credit, Whalen defended himself. He requested that he be treated in a courteous manner as he responded to the attackers. He pointed out that he had been listening and that what he was writing up were his own notes on the attacker’s comments. At any rate, I will not post the transcript here. It is quite offensive. You can access it over at my Anonymous Political Scientist blogsite here.

The only other thing I would like to add to the discussion is the manner in which the speaker, Isaiah, is permitted, without any complaints, to use the N-word, use foul language, articulate racial stereotypes, and endlessly refer to ****-sucking. In Isaiah’s view, simply being polite and following normal procedures is tantamount to working as a cheap prostitute on a busy thoroughfare. My sense is this was all an expression of his power over the group. It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine that a white student saying the exact same things would be given such deference.

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Why Aren’t You Listening?

Nishant writes:

Can we have a post on that crazy video that anon eph frosh posted? It needs multiple daily posts from David. I am serious.

Video here. (Is there a way to embed this? Or at least make it accessible for readers who don’t use Facebook?) The action starts, apparently, at the 30 minute mark. Here (doc) is a (heavily?) edited transcript.

Background seems to be a (successful attempt?) to get CC to partial fund some events at Previews this week which are focused on African-American admitted students. Alas, there were still some CC critics with more to say:

Isaiah: I know that the funding for this has already been supported, but I am appalled by how this was handled. *many expletives* I’m looking at this budget and I’m seeing all the ways white men are getting resources and community afforded to them, and whenever black students come and try to make spaces for students on this campus, we are stopped at every. single. Level.

Oluseyi: you, Tristan Whalen. Why aren’t you listening?

Isaiah: now we are writing. Every time we start speaking, ears close. *many more expletives* You have half a million dollars. How many % of the budget is black previews? .42% Every time we start talking to you we get shouted down by the white moderate, white liberals. You come here, you have $3billion dollars to your name. Why is CC not diverse? Because if we dare try to run, try to be in this space… we have to be with people like you. I just don’t get it. We keep our heads down. Yeah, we got the money, but we are tired of this. I refuse –– no more. You want to have free speech, you want to be racist, open your mouth now.

Since my fan club wants a series on this, a series is what you will be getting! Although probably not this week. What should the scandal controversy name be? “Black Previews”?

Could our readers tell us who the dramatis personae are?

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Discursive and Institutional Violence

Why are some Ephs allowed to send e-mails to the entire Williams student body and other are not?

From: Modhurima, Rodsy <rm8@williams.edu>
Date: Fri, Apr 12, 2019, 10:25 AM
Subject: Calling on trustees as a campus community
To: <WILLIAMS-STUDENTS@listserv.williams.edu>

Dear Williams College Community,

This February we joined as a campus to March for the Damned. We showed our love for each other and brought attention to the ways in which our campus community needs to support minoritized members of this community- staff, faculty, and students.

Many of the demands which have been circulating recently (including, but not limited to, affinity housing, increased accountability of CSS, improved sexual assault prevention and response, and increased support for faculty of color and queer and trans* faculty) have either been ignored or sent to committees to stagnate. These are largely the same demands students have been making for decade.

Today, the Williams trustees are having a full board meeting on campus to approve fiscal budgets for 2019-20. We have called on them to respond to a list of twelve concrete objectives by April 17th. We invite the whole Williams community to join us to build a community of love and compel the trustees to support us in this mission by responding to our asks.

These are not the extent of our demands but are the ones most relevant to the role of Trustees.

In love and solidarity,

CARE Now

Their letter to the trustees:

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE TRUSTEES OF WILLIAMS COLLEGE

We are the Coalition Against Racist Education Now (CARE Now), an active and growing collective of student activists born out of resistance to the 2018 faculty petition on free speech. We garnered over 300 student and alumni signatures in protest of predatory and hate speech. We organized a 200-strong March for the Damned on February 25th after the departures of Professors Kai Green and Kimberly Love due to the violent practices of the College.

We hold the truth of discursive and institutional violence to be self-evident. This year alone, there has been a mass exodus of faculty of color. Many junior faculty of color are considering medical leave due to the unmitigating stress of living in an unsupportive and callous environment; staff are similarly unsupported by the institution with a lack of growth opportunities or access to basic living necessities; and too many students are admitted to the Jones 2 Psychiatric Ward each year.

Dozens of faculty of color leave campus each weekend to avoid the emotional detriment of existing here at the College. The College has proven incompetent in fulfilling its fundamental mission “to provide the finest possible liberal arts education” by failing to support those responsible for educating, mentoring, and supporting students. College administrators have sat on a ‘Faculty-Staff Initiative Report’ from the last mass exodus of faculty of color in 2009, and yet the administration has not adequately addressed the findings of this report over the past decade:

“We understand that improving the professional quality of life for staff and faculty of color, and thus the institutional culture at large, would only improve the experience of Williams students. We have witnessed how departures of staff and faculty of color or their absence in particular fields/sectors impact negatively upon the lives of students—both students of color and white students who turn to staff and faculty members of color for curricular and/or extracurricular support. This negative impact ranges from the disruption/suspension of research projects to an increased sense of isolation. We, therefore, hold that a sizable and long‐term community of staff and faculty of color is vital to the studies and lives of students across the College” (Faculty-Staff Initiative, 2009).

We remind the Trustees of their obligation to the well-being and safety of its students, faculty, and staff. The present moment demonstrates a managerial and fiduciary failure to provide a safe, respectful, and livable school community. The Trustees must respond thoroughly and with haste to this failure with tangible, monetary investment.

Therefore, we compel the Trustees to accomplish the following:

A complete process of reparation and reconciliation to Indigenous peoples including the increased hiring and admittance of Indigenous faculty, staff, and students as well as the reallocation of property back to the nations impacted by the College’s active participation in settler-colonialism.

Approve the request for $34,000 additional funding to the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity in full for the purpose of supporting student-led Heritage Month events, as well as the increase of $15,000 additional funding for incoming Minority Coalition groups.

Commit to improving community spaces by establishing affinity housing for Black students (and all other marginalized groups), ensuring all college buildings be in compliance with ADA guidelines, and fully renovating the Davis Center buildings.

Fund permanent networks of support for faculty of color, such as weekend faculty-staff shuttles to New York and Boston, a community space of gathering, and additional housing resources.

Immediately approve and fund the two requested hiring lines for Asian American Studies. Additionally, immediately use opportunity hires to fill critical gaps left by departing faculty of color.

Recognize that the Davis Center is currently operating with only two full-time underpaid and overworked staff members. As such, immediately hire sufficient staff members to ensure the efficient operation of the Davis Center.

Hire additional therapists, with a focus on trans therapists and therapists of color.

Increase hiring and pay for staff at the Office of Accessible Education and streamline support for students, staff, and faculty who take medical leave and/or time off.

Fund a thorough external independent investigation into the practices and interactions CSS has with students, namely minority students.

Increase diversity and pay for staff in Dining Services and Facilities.

Hire an independent advocate specialized in survivor support, effectively removing the no-contact order (NCOs) investigation responsibilities from Dean Marlene Sandstrom.

Hire three more Title IX coordinators who will meet the demonstrated needs of survivors.

We, CARE Now, demand a formal and public response by the Board of Trustees to this open letter addressing all twelve objectives by April 17, 2019

I love you ・ I love me ・ I love us ・ I love we

Contact us at carenowradicallove@gmail.com | Literature of The Damned: https://bit.ly/2Gi7drK

Photo Credit: Sabrine Brismeur, Photo Editor at The Record

Lots to consider here. Could we start with a single concrete example of the “discursive and institutional violence” which CARE Now considers to be “self-evident?”

If CARE Now is serious about trying to change Williams, they should follow this advice.

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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:
Read more

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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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