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Rumblings on Campus?

An editorial on the subject of alumni donations published in the Williams Record this week seems to suggest that *the student body* may have found a new reason to yell at the administration.

From the editorial:

That the school chose this area to make their cuts should be warning enough, but what is truly disheartening is that seven years removed from the depths of the financial crisis with a larger than ever endowment of at least $2.3 billion, the College has made no moves to reinstate the no-loan policy. Meanwhile, it has found the funds in recent years to begin several large-scale construction projects. In the realm of financial aid, it has instead hired a dean to oversee the Offices of Financial Aid and Admission. By all appearances, the history of the no-loan policy at the College is rather straightforward: the College introduced the no-loan policy to compete with peer institutions, ditched it when it prohibited it from spending on areas it cares about more than allowing students from lower incomes the freedom to pursue post-graduate options without debt and then, after finding its prestige relatively unaffected by the whole ordeal, never looked back.

There’s also this banner hanging off the front of Pareskey:

Wishful Thinking?

And fliers in the dining hall:

How many people do they think read these?

It is currently unclear if anyone actually plans to protest this, but it seems unlikely that there will be any discussion of the merits of resurrecting such a policy.


Williams Insight

Williams Insight is a new student organization. Purpose:

Williams Insight is an online financial publication, in which interested students can submit and publish their liberal arts insights into the economic and financial news.

Good stuff! The more student organizations at Williams, the better. I especially like this:

The objective of the group is first to establish a community of people who are interested in finance and the economy and second to have a place where we can keep up with the market while engaging in productive and concrete analysis.

Williams is a great community, both in Williamstown and in the larger world, but there is so much more we can do to bring together smaller circles of interest. Recall our discussion from a decade (!) ago:

Williams needs EphCOI: Williams-connected Communities of Interest. If on-line communities involving alumni (and students/faculty/staff/parents) are ever going to work, it will only be in the context of shared interests of some sort. My thoughts now are more or less the same as two years ago. The main change is that a blog with new content every weekday is clearly the best way to start. Sign up one staff member to help (read: ensure that at least one new item appears each day) and then find one or two alumni and students to lead the effort. These will be the first authors.

2) Start small. There is no need to create 15 of these from the start. Prove that the concept is a workable one with just one or two sites. I will ensure that an Ephs in Finance blog will succeed. Perhaps Dan Blatt ’85 could be recruited for Ephs in Entertainment. Why not our own Ben Fleming ’04 for Ephs in Journalism? Jen Doleac ’03 for Ephs in Policy? When I took DeWitt Clinton ’98 out to dinner in San Francisco, he was filled with big talk about organizing an Ephs in Technology group of some sort, perhaps with Evan Miller ’05. Recruit them. But first demonstrate the potential (and Williams’s commitment) with a working example.

3) Be open. There must be no logins or passwords (except for authors, obviously). Anyone from anywhere must be able to read these blogs. Anything less will lead to failure. I, for one, certainly wouldn’t bother to participate. There is an argument, perhaps, for keeping some things hidden. For example, no outsider can see my internship posting on the internal OCC site. If it makes the powers-that-be nervous, fine. Hide stuff. Yet, for the most part, this is stupid. Hidden stuff will never be a common point of interest within any EphCOI because most readers won’t, obviously, be able to see it. In addition, I actually hate the fact that I can’t (easily) check to confirm that my listing is correct on the OCC site. There is no real reason for hiding this material. If OCC didn’t want too many outsiders to see it, they could just ask Google to not index that information (DeWitt Clinton can tell you how). But anything that is clearly labeled as “For Williams Students Only” is, obviously, not going to draw a lot of attention from non-Ephs.

4) Be friendly. A blog-savvy person from OIT, like Chris Warren, can help ensure that the blogs have all the standard feeds and options. Older readers will appreciate the ability to easily print things, especially long threads (something that might be nice for EphBlog). Younger participants will insist on RSS and the like. It might even be nice to include options to sign up for a (week) daily or weekly e-mail summary with embedded links. The key is that the EphCOI must make it easy for Ephs to participate in whatever manner they prefer with a minimum of hassle.

Read the rest here. As true today as it was a decade ago.

I especially like the fact that Williams Insight reaches out to alumni.



Welcoming the Newborn College Republicans







I expected more of a celebration than this. A group of this sort could thrive from proactive advertising. A few posters in Paresky Center would have sufficed to put the first meeting of this promising group on the radar. Perhaps it’s just a rookie error.

Or perhaps there is intent in the subdued announcement. Considering right-wing views are to Williams College what mongooses are to snakes, the prudent path might be to first feel out for potential backlash. In any case, the organization garnered a modest group with its first meeting–now focus on growing that base.


College Council Has No Power Over Invited Speakers

An alum tried to get this letter published in the Record:

To the editor,

Skylar Smith’s ’18 February 22 article “CC Approves Uncomfortable Learning as an RSO” (and the comments therein from Lizzy Hibbard ’19) demonstrated a misunderstanding of the College’s new policy with regard to outside funding for invited speakers. Any Registered Student Organization may invite someone to speak at Williams even if the funding for that speaker comes from an alumnus or some other non-Williams organization. The RSO must, of course, abide by the new rules, specifically by revealing the source of the funding to Williams and by providing at least two weeks notice before the event. But, as Director of Media Relations Mary Dettloff confirmed to me, neither CC nor any other student organization can prevent an RSO from inviting a speaker. Only Williams itself may ban a speaker, as it did last year in the case of John Derbyshire.

Annoyingly, the Record refused to publish this letter, choosing instead to issue this correction:


This matters because it is bad enough that Williams empowers Adam Falk to ban speakers with whom he disagrees. If College Council could ban student-invited (faculty-invited?) speakers, madness would follow. One Eph censor is enough!

UPDATE: The headline of the physical Record last week was “CC passes free speech resolution 16-3-1.” There was also this photo caption: “Kevin Mercadante ’17 introduces a resolution intended to enshrine speech and protect individual rights to disagree and protest.” Alas, there is no associated news story that I can find, either on-line or in the paper itself. Can anyone provide details? The College Council website does not allow outsides to see the current year’s agenda or minutes. Sad!


Hello, EphBlog! – Concerned Ephs ’17 (and ’18, and ’19, and so forth)

The first time I came to Williams was the fall before my freshman year – my eighth stop in my college tour, and by then, I’d discovered that the best way to truly learn about a school, skeletons included, wasn’t through admissions tours or glossy brochures, but by dropping in on a class, looking at the person beside me, shaking my head, and declaring “Oh my god, I heard that problem set was so hard.” Fortunately (for me at least) this proved quite effective when I visited because it happened to be midterm season then. I sat in a physics lecture, looked to my right, and said: “Oh my god, I heard that midterm was so hard.” The girl seated beside me, Jaime, enlarged her eyes and nodded in agreement, and to my delight, began speaking in earnest, generous detail about her packed (to put it lightly) week: a dance show just three days for which she had daily rehearsals, some RA work that was due with the statistics department, planning a surprise birthday for her entrymate (Willy D!), holding office hours for a CS class she was TA-ing, and, of course, the lab element of her physics midterm. Jaime looked exhausted and sleep deprived, and had the bloodshot eyes to prove it. As she was about to say more, to my surprise Jaime stopped herself and shrugged: “Sorry, I shouldn’t be complaining. Forget what I just said.” Perplexed with this realization following her rant, I asked her what she meant. “Everyone at Williams is so lucky to be here. Sometimes it gets overwhelming but what makes this all so worth it, what makes this place unique I guess, is that everyone really cares.” She packed up her things, and in the face of a mountain of commitments the following day, proceeded to old Sawyer, where her tutee would be waiting. I was sold – no one in any other school said anything remotely as powerful.

It didn’t take long after I first arrived to realize how true Jaime’s words (and so, so much more!) are. Coming from the other side of the world, coming to Williams was a huge leap of faith; now, some years later, my roots are firmly planted in this fertile, Purple Valley. Some of my most cherished memories and most powerful moments include the all nighters I spent with fellow classmates studying for that last bio final in Science Quad; the conversations I’d have with professors-turned-mentors, where their passions exude in their excitement; the many times I’ve seen both friends and strangers drop everything to help a fellow classmate in need. As time went by, the four years here I once considered a mere stepping stone slowly became an end unto itself. As with the many who read and write for this blog, I’ve come attribute much of who I am today to the people I’ve met, befriended, learned from, and mentored (you go full circle at Williams!), and the ideas that I’ve explored with them here in the Purple Valley.

It’s for these very reasons that I, along with two friends from the class of ’18 and ’19, have taken to EphBlog as students who are very concerned with the state of matters in the college. As our affinity and affection for Williams grew, so did our awareness of the institution and internal workings behind the name. As many of my fellow upperclassmen will agree, the more time one spends at Williams, the more one begins to notice the disturbing cracks in the well: fellow classmates unceremoniously ignored or stonewalled by administrators, the rude and unfair treatment of students who want to start clubs (some elements of Williams make this shockingly difficult if they do not agree with you!), backwards and arbitrary use of policy, rampant and potentially systemic Honor Code violations, and so much more! It was a deeply sad and distressing moment for all of us when we realized that the Williams to which we aspired wasn’t the Williams we thought it was.

Unfortunately, Williams students are not ideally placed to solve, let alone notice, these problems. We students come and go every year, the Record is unable to report anything substantive (for good reason, which we’ll get to in a future post!), and no student will have any reasonable measure of institutional memory to draw on. What’s more is that in our efforts to get answers to issues, it’s been made quite clear to us that there is no place for questions, debate, and opinions (esp. if you do not agree with Williams) in the Purple Valley. Sometimes, these concerns may initially seem isolated to individual cases. However, as we began investigating and hearing more and more Hopkins Horror Stories (as they’re known among students) and other disturbing events from fellow students and professors, patterns just as perturbing started emerging that we could no longer ignore – especially since many of them are quite structural (and thus here to stay) in nature! Many of our professors, especially those who’ve been here longer, pointed (some willingly, most unwillingly) to EphBlog as a means of cataloging, reporting, discussing, and connecting these issues – where else can Williams students earnestly, meaningfully do this? It’s our hope that these efforts help usher a more transparent, fairer Williams that all of us can proudly call their alma mater. At the end of the day, we all play a role in shaping what Williams is, and what we ultimately want it to become.

All this said, though, we also love talking about issues at Williams separate from these concerns – to alums, please let us know what you’d like to hear! We’re very into Ephs doing cool things (so we’ll post a bit about that every now and then!), career advice for younger underclassmen (such as getting that internship), and which classes to take/professors to meet. Otherwise, if you have any tips or issues you’d like to discuss (other current students especially!), shoot us an email at – we would love to hear from all Ephs!

Happy Friday!


Student Letter on Horn

From our friends at the Coalition for Transparency and Accountability comes this letter (pdf) to Adam Falk and the trustees about Trustee Joey Horn ’87.

We are deeply disturbed by the recent conviction of Trustee Joey Shaista Horn and her husband by the Oslo District Court for violating the Immigration Act (of Norway). The couple had illegally hired two au pairs and subjected them to illegal and unjust working conditions from 2011 to 2014 , as reported by several Norwegian media outlets.

How about a shout out to EphBlog!? The CTA did not find that article on its own. [If anything, EphBlog owes CTA a shout out since it was CTA member Linda Worden ’19 who first found the article. Thanks to commentators for pointing this out.]

We have questions and demand answers:

● When was Williams College made aware of the investigation, the trial, and the conviction?
● Why did Williams College fail to notify the community about this pending investigation?
● If the College was aware of this investigation, why did the College feel it was appropriate to open Horn Hall with its current name?
● Will Trustee Joey Shaista Horn continue to serve on the Board of Trustees?

We demand that the College develop a clear plan for ensuring transparency and accountability from Trustees in the future.

The CTA deserves credit for highlighting the timing of the initial indictment in 2014. This scandal has been percolating for a long time. (And EphBlog is embarrassed to not have covered it until now.) However, CTA has also demonstrated a childish inability to accomplish anything of use and/or to work with its natural allies. (That is, it refuses to follow my excellent advice.) However, I am still happy to answer their questions:

1) Joey probably let the College know about this issue back when she was indicted. At least, I hope she did.

2) The College is not in the business of keeping “the community” updated on every imbroglio that its trustees (or its faculty or its major donors or its students) get involved in. That would be stupid! Would the CTA want Williams to send out a news release every time a student is arrested by the local cops, a news release with the students name? I hope not!

3) Donors get to name things. How naive are the students behind the CTA? Moreover, at the time of the naming, the Horns had not yet been found guilty. And they still might win on appeal. And, even in the worse case that they spend a few months in jail, I (and Williams?) do not see that conviction as such an egregious sin that a building renaming would be required.

4) Horn will continue to serve on the trustees. She is a good person who did one bad thing. I initially thought that Horn would stay on the Trustees. I was wrong. Did the CTAs letter play a role in her resignation? The Record should try and find out.

By the way, the politics of this situation are interesting. The CTA is, obviously, packed with social justice warriors. So, why were they trying to get rid of one of the few women of color on the Trustees? Why were they attacking Horn for, more or less, employing an illegal immigrant in Norway?

Is the CTA the Williams beachhead for Trump? Prosecute and shame the employers of illegal immigrants!

The good (?) news is that the Horn case is bringing together Ephs who normally disagree. Consider former Williams professor John Drew’s take:

From my perspective, the more pertinent issue is whether or not the U.S. and Williams College are ready for the globalist values of Joey Horn 87′. As a matter of integrity, Williams College should return their gift and allow someone else, someone with better and more humane values, have the honor of their name on that building. Simple as that. If Williams fails to take action, the students on campus should begin protesting this outrage.

If the CTA — social justice warriors (almost) all — and John Drew — perhaps the most outspoken member of the vast right wing conspiracy, Eph division — all agree that Horn Hall should be renamed then . . . well, I guess that I am not sure what follows from that . . . But is sure is nice to see CTA/Drew agree on something!

UPDATE: Today’s Record article is stunningly good. Kudos to reporters Nicholas Goldrosen and William Newton. Read the whole thing.


Questions about the 80’s II

Gargoyle is interested in Williams history and has passed along some questions about life at Williams is the mid-to-late 1980s. I will be posting (and answering) these questions. If you were around during this era, please chime in!

What were the major issues and topics of conversation that students at Williams were concerned with?

Issues and topics of conversation were, more or less, the same then as now. Consider some front page articles from the issues of the Williams Record from September 2016.

Seniors, Faculty Convocate
Minority Students Preview Science Courses
Student Rental Disturbs Neighbors
College Council Discussed Ways to Recruit Minority Faculty
Baker Like Mass MoCA
Falk Appoints Cook to Head Race Relations Board
Department Chairmen Stress Minority Recruitment Efforts
Tauber Chairs IPECS, New Department for Innovative, Interdisciplinary Courses
Council Reorganizes Freshmen Council

Oh, wait. Did I claim that these were the front page Record articles for September 2016? My mistake! Those were the front page Record articles for September 1987. (I made two switches: replace (then president) “Oakley” with “Falk” and (then governor) “Dukakis” with “Baker.”) Careful readers might have been suspicious about some of these headlines. We now use “chairs” instead of “chairmen.” We now talk about “diversity” instead of “race” or “minority.” Professor Kurt Tauber (bless his Marxist heart!) is long retired and Professor Tim Cook, sadly, passed away several years ago.

But, to me, the amazing thing is the constancy of the issues/topics that concerned the Williams community, then and now. Indeed, with minor word changes, each of these titles could be a Record article today. We were obsessed with race in the 1980s. Williams is obsessed with diversity today. Affirmative action — admitting students and hiring faculty with worse qualifications because of the color of their skin — was controversial then, just as it is today. The general liberalism of Williams students has, if anything, grown over time. There was an active Garfield Republican Club in the 1980s, not so today.

Of course, many other issues/topics are different. The biggest single issue at Williams during this era, as we discussed yesterday, involved apartheid in South Africa and the College’s response to it, especially in terms of divesting the endowment from companies doing business there. There was a “shanty town” on Chapin Lawn, at least for a several months and maybe longer. An impressive display of white crosses in the same location, to illustrate the fatalities associated with apartheid, was a major event one year. Concerns about nuclear winter were common, with movies like The Day After highlighting the dangers of conflict with the Soviet Union.

Yet, looking back, the political disputes then and now are more similar than they are different. The major changes have been technological. For example, how much porn does the typical (male?) Williams student consume each week? Thirty years ago, pornography was vanishingly rare. There must have been (male?) students with copies of Playboy and Penthouse, but I never knew of them. My avante-garde theatre major roommates rented a porn video once and, on at least one occasion, Images showed something along the lines of Lady Chatterly’s Lover, but the modal Williams student viewed almost no pornography while at Williams.

Similar changes have come in all sorts of communications technologies. Back then, the typical Greylock suite had a single phone line, shared by 4 or even 6 students. Non-local calls were so expensive that, at the end of each month, roommates would look at the bill and specify (and pay for) the calls they had each made. Finding out a fact as simple as, did the Dodgers win last night, was non-trivial.

Some students had TVs but channels were limited and reception poor. Cable only became available in some dorms, and then only in the common areas, in the later 1980s.

Summary: A transcript of a Williams college class from thirty years ago, especially something in the sciences or humanities, is very similar (98%?) to today’s transcript. A practice session for the soccer team or the Springstreeters is also more-or-less the same. But the entertainments students consume, the communications they employ and the computer devices they use are all radically different.

How would our reader who were at Williams in the 1980s answer this question? What about readers from other eras?


Questions from the 80’s I

Gargoyle is interested in Williams history and has passed along some questions about life at Williams is the mid-to-late 1980s. I will be posting (and answering) these questions. If you were around during this era, please chime in!

What was happening politically/socially outside of Williams? What were students thinking about aside from school (elections, political events, scandals, etc.)?

Nothing was different and everything was different.

Then and now, US Presidents (Reagan/Trump) had received virtually zero votes from Williams faculty members and very few votes from students. Both were widely derided as intellectually vacuous buffoons. Then as now, Russia was considered to be a key international competitor. Then as now, there were vociferous debates over taxes and the size of the federal government. Politics was, more or less, the same then as it is now, perhaps the same as it ever was. Students were concerned, to a certain extent, with these issues, but they were also mainly interested in their classes, their activities and their friends. The outside world touched Williams, but not deeply.

From my imperfect memory, one of the most important political issue — in terms of what Williams students/faculty talked and argued about — was apartheid in South Africa. Divestment by the endowment from companies that did business in South Africa was one of the major sources of conflict between students and the trustees. (The closest parallel today would be divestment from companies which contribute to climate change.)

Many of the social debates of that era have echoes today. Read this history (pdf) of “Black Williams,” especially pages 67ff for details. Affirmative action was a lightning rod for debate, both in admissions and faculty hiring. Abortion was controversial, although student opinion was overwhelmingly pro-choice.

If I were to re-phrase you question, I would add “technologically” to your duo of “politically/socially.” Political and social issues today would have seemed very familiar to a student transported forwarded from 1987. Technologically, the world is a very different place.

How would our reader who were at Williams in the 1980s answer this question? What about readers from other eras?


Are Sexual Assault Investigations Biased Against Poor Minority Males?

Will the Record mention some of the sensitive PC issues associated with Safety Dance? For example:


True? Probably. Certainly, 90%+ of the cases must be against men. But the Record ought to find out the truth. Williams can’t reveal the students involved in individual cases, but it can discuss the overall statistics. It probably won’t but the Record should push the College to explain why not. If students in category X are much more likely to commit sexual assault, shouldn’t Williams admit fewer of them and/or devote more energy to educating them?

Even if Williams can’t admit fewer men, should it change the mixture of men which it admits?


I have talked to enough recent students to know that minority men on financial aid are much more likely to be charged with sexual assault at Williams and punished for it. John Doe fits this pattern. (The same is also true of varsity athletes, especially those playing helmet-sports.)

Recall that in the recent Amherst case (investigated by the same attorney (Kurker) who Williams employed on this case), the accused student’s lawyer claimed that:

After the College [Amherst] adopted its new policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct in May 2013, it aggressively began to prosecute alleged perpetrators. On information and belief, in doing so, the College targeted male students of color. In particular, on information and belief, the only students who have been sanctioned with separation from the College (forced leave, suspension, or expulsion) as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct have been male students of color.

My friends on the Alt-Right would claim that, first, minority men are much more likely to commit sexual assault than white men in the general population, so it stands to reason that the same dynamics would apply to elite colleges. Second, they would be perplexed at how often “minority” in this context means “Asian-American,” as in the headline cases at Amherst and Vassar. Asian-Americans are, of course, much less likely to commit sexual assaults than whites. Is sexual assault by Asian-American men on college campuses more likely than we might naively expect or is it that the college justice system is biased against them? Save this debate for another day.

The last PC issues worth pondering concern class and culture. Consider some of the speech/actions that John Doe is accused of:

Susan brought John as her date to her 100 Days Dance. They had an argument, and she told him that she wanted to leave the party because they weren’t enjoying it. John and Susan walked towards the door, but as she walked out of it, he stayed at the door and said something like, “Oh, you can’t come back in now.”

(Susan stated that once a person left the dance, the College did not allow reentry.) At the time that John tricked Susan into leaving the dance without him, he knew that she did not have her phone or ID with her because he was holding them. Without these things, she was forced to sit outside of her dorm (Dodd House) in 19-degree weather, in only a dress and heels, as she waited about an hour for someone to come by to let her in to the building.

This is one of many (not uncontested!) examples of John Doe acting like a cad. But, as the Exploring Diversity Initiative at Williams is designed to teach, cultures differ. In Ecuador, men are expected to treat women in a certain fashion. That particular example of diversity may not be what Williams is interested in having more of. Should the College, therefore, prefer applicants from some cultures over those from others?

Side note: John Doe, on his Linked-In reports that he is Williams College 2011-2015. The first problem, obviously, is that he is implying that he has a Williams degree when, in fact, he does not. The second problem is that this suggests (since he didn’t complete the required course work until the spring of 2016) that he took time off from Williams. There is at least one anonymous suggestion that the College forced him to take time off because of his behavior towards a female student. Any truth to that? Would that explain why Williams has come down so hard on him when the facts of this case, alone, would not justify such an extreme punishment?


Notes for Record Reporting on Safety Dance

The leadership of the Record — Matthew Borin, Zoe Harvan and Christian Ruhl — faces some difficult questions in covering “Safety Dance,” the latest sexual assault controversy at Williams. Reader comments are wanted on all the below.

1) Do they mention the real name of the accused, currently called John Doe in the legal filings? We all know his name, both because of anonymous unmaskings at EphBlog and because his attorney was sloppy in her initial legal filings, as pointed out by MRL ’91. I am unaware of any journalistic standard which protects privacy in a case like this. But the Record, out of sympathy for a fellow Eph, may not want to out him for all of Google to see.

2) Do they mention the real name of “Susan Smith,” the student who accused Doe? There is a journalistic standard — as a Williams official has repeatedly told me! — that reputable publications do not publish the names of reported victims of sexual assault. But, in those cases, the reported victim has no other status in the story beyond that of victim. In this case, Smith is an admitted perpetrator. No one contests that she slapped Doe.

Imagine if the Record had gotten a copy of this March 13, 2016 cease-and-desist letter (pdf) from Doe’s attorney to Smith. It accuses a college employee (Smith) of assaulting a student (Doe). Would that be newsworthy? Of course! Would the Record be justified in publishing both Doe and Smith’s real names? Of course! So, Smith’s name would (should) have appeared in the Record back in March. Her actions alone justify a lack of anonymity. But then, two months later, she accuses Doe of a sexual assault that occurred a year prior. Does that after-the-fact accusation mean that the Record is not allowed to publish her name with regard to a different, albeit connected, news event? I don’t know.

3) Should the Record use material that was (incompetently?) redacted from the filings? Consider page 42 from exhibit 13 pdf. In the PDF, it looks like:


Many of the filings feature this sort of heavy redacting (for reasons that are unclear to me). But, if you just copy-and-paste that into a text processor, you get:

Susan’s Third Interview

The alleged incident of non-consensual sex occurred on Labor Day in 2014, on the night that Matias Crespo hosted his first party of the semester. Susan responded to John’s contentions as follows:

o Susan estimates that she and John only attended two parties in Matias’s room that semester.

o Susan maintained that, with the exception of the September incident, she and John never had sex after consuming any alcohol. She disputed John’s contention that on some occasions, they would have sex after drinking between one and three drinks each. She stated that when they went out they would drink to the point of such intoxication that they would throw up together in their room, but they never had sex after drinking.

o With respect to Susan’s level of intoxication that night, she believes that John observed her shot-gunning a beer because he was also shot-gunning beers. She also recalls that she was drinking shots of Fireball.

o Susan’s last recollection before engaging in sexual intercourse was of her leaving Matias’s room. During sex, she recalls that she was “physically trying” to get away from John by attempting to “shift out from under him,” but he was restraining her, using his body weight and strength to “hold [her] down.” NB: Susan described herself to Ms. Kurker as “lying on her stomach.”

And so on. Everything in the filings that has been redacted is actually available. Should the Record use that information in its reporting?

4) Should the Record give EphBlog credit and/or reference our reporting in any way? If it only uses documents that it, on its own, got from PACER, then it probably does not have to, unless the reporter first found out about the case by reading EphBlog. Or maybe it should credit KC Johnson? Either way, if the Record uses filings that we have provided, then it ought to credit EphBlog. Specifically, I bet that if the Record uses the non-redacted (or sloppily redacted) filings — which it almost certainly got from us — it ought to mention EphBlog. It should not pretend that it is using documents from PACER unless it has gotten them from PACER itself.


Questions about Griffin Hall Hate Hoax

11-12-16-Griffin-Hall-stairs-going-up-to-rooms-6-and-7-pic-8 Kudos to Record reporter Ryan Kelley for a solid article about the Griffin Hall hate hoax. (By the way, any ideas for catchy names for the scandal? I miss that EphBlog tradition!) Kudos, also, to the Record for publishing (and the Office of Communications for providing) crime scene photos like the one to the left. What questions should Kelley and other reporters answer for the next issue?

1) Why haven’t the criminals been arrested? The College claimed that it was a crime, hence the need for local police, Mass State Police and the FBI. Now that they knew who did it, have they informed Williamstown police about their identities. If not, why not? I suspect that the College has either declined to inform the police or (better?), it has informed them but also reported that no charges would be pressed, so no arrests were necessary. Either way, there is a cover up in progress. The Record ought to get to the bottom.

11-12-16-Griffin-Hall-main-entrance-landing-near-room-4-pic-112) Mary Detloff claimed in the Globe that identifying the students would violate Federal law. This is utter gibberish. The College is no more prevented from reporting the identity of these students than it is from telling us who scored a goal in the last soccer game. (Comments from lawyers welcome!) Federal law prevents the disclosure of certain student records. The College can’t hand out your transcript, nor can it (probably?) report that you were suspended for cheating (or sexual assault?). But a student’s confession? Or the fact that the College determined, on its own, who the guilty students are? The College can report that all day long. The Record should push Detloff hard on this untruthful claim, perhaps by insisting on an interview with the college’s in-house lawyer: Jeff Jones.

3) Follow the money. What is the total cost of fixing the physical damage? What is the cost of overtime for security officers involved in the investigation? Will the guilty students be expected to pay those costs? If not, why not? If a student breaks a living room window in Carter, he is expected to pay for it. (And, if the College can’t identify him, all the students in Carter pay.) Shouldn’t the same apply in this case?

The Record has done a solid job covering these events. But there is much more to investigate. Will they?


Notes for the Record on Griffin Vandalism

Here are some suggestions for the Record with regard to the recent Griffin Hall vandalism:

1) Get a picture of the vandalism! The College/Police certainly took some. The College may be reluctant to share them with you. If so, shame them by threatening to write, “The College refused to release pictures of the vandalism.” That is the sort of press that the College does not like, especially if you follow up by demanding to know the reasoning behind their refusal. (The real reason is that the College hates bad press, but they can hardly admit that.) Also, the Williamstown police might release photos, especially if you start to threaten them with an FOIA request.

2) If you can’t get photos, make sure to get multiple descriptions from different sources. Don’t just rely on Falk’s e-mail.

3) Make sure to explore, by talking with various observers, the two most likely scenarios: First, there are white supremacists roaming the Williams campus, putting up hateful graffiti, just as they did in 2011 and 2012 and all the way back to 1993. Second, there are liberals/progressives/leftist roaming the campus committing “hate hoaxes,” just as they did in 1993, 2011 and 2012. I would bet 20:1 on the second scenario.

4) I think that the most relevant history is the hockey rink vandalism of 2015. In other words, this is not so much a hate hoax in which someone is pretending to be racist vandal as it is people very upset about outside events and feeling the need to “raise awareness.” I would not be surprised if outsiders were involved.

5) Please tell us more about what AMKKK means, even speculation would be helpful.

Good luck!


Diversity and Equity Forum VI

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 6.

Buell said that the faculty will vote on EDI this year and that the Committee on Educational Affairs, led by Professor David Edwards, is already reassessing EDI. “We will be hoping to make some pretty major changes,” Professor Gail Newman said.

The vision is for EDI to adopt a greater focus on social justice.

The Committee on Educational Affairs is the (somewhat neutered?) successor to the old Committee on Education Policy. Comments:

1) Background: My sense of the politics behind this change is that the Administration found the CEP to be (excessively) independent and hard to control, both because the CEP had student members and because Administration allies were too small a percentage of the votes. So, they split the CEP’s responsibilities between the CEA and the Curricular Planning Committee, which has no student members and is where the real power lies. Informed commentary on this speculation is welcome.

2) It would nice to have some more transparency about this proposed change. Has the College studied how well the current EDI is (or is not) working? Has it surveyed students and/or faculty? Has it compared the results of EDI in practice with the promises made by its proponents? Background reading here, here and here.

3) The evolution of Political Correctness course requirements at Williams would make for an interesting senior essay. First, we had the “Peoples and Cultures” requirement.

The peoples and cultures requirement is designed to ensure that all students graduate with at least some basic understanding of the cultural pluralism of American society and of the world at large.

Now, we have “Exploring Diversity Initiative.” Is that really going to change into a “social justice” requirement of some sort? Or does this seem like another one of EphBlog’s stupid parodies of political correctness run amok? Can you even tell the difference? Without checking, can you be sure that I just didn’t make up that quote in the Record?

4. The best solution is to remove all requirements, other than 4 courses per semester and a major. There is no need to micro-manage student course selection beyond that. Suggestion: Remove the EDI, quantitative and writing requirements for one Williams class, say the class of 2021. This is an easy experiment! Then, examine the choices that those students make. I bet that their choices will be almost indistinguishable from the choices made by current students. And, to the extent there are differences, I bet that those differences would be sensible and would reflect well on those students.


Diversity and Equity Forum V

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 5.

Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell then shared some statistics regarding the College’s efforts to diversify the faculty. Of last year’s 13 newly hired tenure-track faculty members, nine identify as persons of color, and 10 are women.

Are you a white male interested in a faculty position at an elite college? Your chances are much worse than you think. Williams would much rather higher a woman or a person of color or, ideally, someone who is both.

The Record’s reporting does not really line up with College’s announcements (here and here). Professor Buell kindly provided me with this clarification.

There are actually 15 tenure-track faculty beginning this year (some were hired prior to last year’s hiring season and some folks hired last year have deferred their start dates). Of those 15, 9 identify as people of color and 11 as women. For purposes of institutional reporting, we are now keeping track of the stats for each entering cohort, so this is probably the best information to report out.

During the 15-16 hiring season itself, the college hired 16 faculty members into tenure-track positions. 12/16 identify as faculty members of color and 12/16 identify as women. But what [you] may be citing refers to the results of hiring from national searches. During the 2015-16 academic year, Williams College hired 13 tenure-track faculty into 11 academic departments and programs from national searches. 9/13 identify as persons of color; 10/13 are women. 3 additional tenure-track faculty members were hired through opportunity appointment requests.

Below the break are links for all the new faculty. Comments:

1) The Record could do a fun article comparing the qualifications of the white male hires versus the POC female hires. Even more fun would be interviewing Administration officials about what the comparison should show! The trap is that Williams wants us to believe two contradictory things: first, that the qualifications are the same and, second, that the College gives preferences to POC/female hires. Both can’t be true!

2) No time today for detailed racial bean counting, but it is unclear how Buell gets to 9 POC starting this year. Some googling suggests that this number might include: Chen, Constantine, Ford, Harris, Saint-Just and Tokeshi.


But what about Eqeiq, Nassif, Singh and Yacoob?


This is 10 (plausible?) POC, without even trying to figure out if any of the other new faculty and have a grandfather from Spain.

3) As always, the fun is in the details. Should someone with Indian (from India) ancestry be classified as Caucasion or Asian, either according to the US Census (yes) or to Williams College (as long as they check the box)?

4) The most important potential change to these numbers concerns the proposal to include a MENA designation on the next census. This would allow people from the Middle East and North Africa to select a category other than “white.” If this passes, then there would, in an instant, be a much higher percentage of POC faculty at Williams. Or does Williams already count faculty from MENA countries as POC?

5) Since MENA includes Israel, it would not be unreasonable for an American Jew of European descent to check the MENA box since his ancestry derives, ultimately, from the Middle East. The Williams faculty could, in this scenario, be majority POC by 2020!

Read more


Diversity and Equity Forum IV

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 4.

John Herrera ’17 urged the administration to revise the Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI) requirement.

EphBlog agrees! The EDI is PC nonsense that ought to be abolished. As a reminder:

Williams College is committed to creating and maintaining a curriculum, faculty, and student body that reflects and explores a diverse, globalized world and the multi-cultural character of the United States. Courses designated “(D)” in the College Bulletin are a part of the College’s Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI); they represent our dedication to study groups, cultures, and societies as they interact with, and challenge, each other. Through such courses, students and faculty also consider the multiple approaches that engage these issues. Rather than simply focus on the study of specific peoples, cultures, or regions of the world, in the past or present, however, courses fulfilling the requirement actively promote a self-conscious and critical engagement with diversity. They urge students to consider the operations of difference in the world and provide them with the tools to do so. The ultimate aim of the requirement is to lay the groundwork for a life-long engagement with the diverse cultures, societies, and histories of the United States and the rest of the world.

Should we spend a week on EDI? In the meantime, back to the Record:

He [Herrera] said that EDI classes could be more successful if professors designed courses specifically to focus on diversity.

That is a strange comment. Does Herrera think he knows more about course design than the average Williams professor? I have my doubts! Consider some current classes with the “D” designation like AFR 343: Racial-Sexual Violence with Joy James or AFR 129: 20th Century Black Poets with David Smith. Does Herrera think that these courses are poorly designed, the readings too narrow, or the assignments ill-conceived? Perhaps. If so, he should give us some details!

Herrera suggested that the College increase the requirement from one credit to two and spread EDI classes more evenly across divisions.

Ahhh. Herrera is a Social Justice Warrior, Eph Division. He has no complaints against courses like AFR 343. He wants more such courses and he wants to force more students to take them. What a proper little Leninist!

Think that is too harsh? Perhaps. But what is the appropriate terminology for a student who wants to force other students to take courses they don’t want to take? As Morty Schapiro described it, Williams students have 32 Golden Tickets, just 32 chances — and only 24 if the spend junior year abroad — to study fascinating topics with amazing professors. Every time you force them to take a class that they would not otherwise take — whether because of requirements for EDI, divisional distribution, writing or quantitative reasoning — you steal from them.

One might argue that, for the faculty, this is an obligation. Part of their job is to make students do things — like take 4 courses a semester and major in something — that not all students would willingly do. But for a student like Herrera to argue that his peers are too stupid (or racist?) to willingly select the courses that (he thinks!) they ought to is to display the sort of arrogance that can give (some!) Williams students a bad reputation.


Diversity and Equity Forum III

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 3.

Matthew Hennessy ’17 then provided an update on the Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History (CSIH). CSIH spent the spring semester of 2016 investigating the history of the Log mural and surveying students about the mural, he said. The committee concluded that the College should keep the mural but add written contextualization.

President Adam Falk praised CSIH for its work and stressed the importance of student engagement with complicated issues. Hennessy said this semester CSIH will continue to look into objects, spaces and names on campus that no longer align with the College’s current institutional beliefs.

1) The CSIH is one of the great wins at Williams in the last year. See our previous coverage here and here. I am still hopeful that readers will want us to spend a week on this topic . . . No takers so far!

2) Can’t we start calling this the “Merrill Committee?” That would be much catchier than CSIH.

3) The CSIH ought to tell us exactly which “objects, spaces and names on campus” they are looking at. Perhaps they are planning another open forum? We have tried (and failed!) to come up with issues that might enrage the student SJW crowd. Perhaps the Haystack Monument?

In the spring of 1806, Samuel J. Mills matriculated at Williams. The son of a Connecticut clergyman, Mills was eager to spread Christianity throughout the world.

One Saturday afternoon in August 1806, Mills and four other students gathered for one of their regularly scheduled prayer meetings. On this particular day, it is said that the skies opened up and the students sought refuge in the shelter of a large haystack. While gathered at the haystack, the students conceived of the idea to found an American missionary movement focused on spreading Christianity worldwide, particularly to the East.

Whoa! I just realized, after writing about Williams for 13 years, that “Mission Park” refers to the religious missions that these white male cisgendered Christians launched 200 years ago. Could be problematic!

Mills House is named after Samuel J. Mills who, after leaving Williams,

engaged in missions in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, in the Southwest United States, and in New Orleans. He influenced the founding of the American Bible Society and the United Foreign Missionary Society before he died in 1818 while returning from a short-term mission trip to Africa with the American Colonization Society.

I suspect that the activities of the American Colonization Society might not meet with the approval of the current Williams faculty . . .


Diversity and Equity Forum II

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 2.

Wilkinson also asked that counseling services be more available. Students with mental illness often do not know how to access help, she said.

Wilkinson, who is on the Mental Health Committee, added that the College’s geographic isolation makes on-campus psychiatric services the only option for students. The availability of those services, as a result, is essential.

Vice President of Campus Life Steve Klass said that the College has greatly improved its mental health services in recent years and is looking to hire a new director of counseling services in the near future. The College has doubled the number of counselors on staff in the last six years.

“We’re paying attention, and we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.

The Record provided more coverage of his topic yesterday.

This week, Erin Hanson ’18 launched a petition on titled “Williams College: sell 4–5 marble slabs to pay for a new therapist at the Health Center.” In the petition, which is directed at the College administration, Hanson references the multi-million dollar renovation and quad project.

Hanson also quotes the Williams Committee of Transparency and Accountability, a new committee on campus: “There are only eight therapists and one psychiatrist who serve a community of 2200. At least one in five college students … have some kind of mental illness. Even if all eight worked full time, there would not be enough time for all students with need to be served. Furthermore, three of eight are fellows, who [are not licensed, paid less, and on short term contracts]. Of the three people of color on staff, two are fellows. There are few LGBT staff, and no transgender staff.”

1) I am always in favor of moving a dollar from other stuff to student spending. For example, the College ought to close the Children’s Center and spend that money on students.

2) This is clearly a topic that many students feel strongly about. The Record should report more about it. Are there really 9 full time employees working as therapists? How many students are treated? How many total hours of treatment are provided? How does all of this compare to peer schools? Without knowing more facts, it is hard to make an informed judgment.

3) The total number of non-faculty employees at Williams should stay constant. Williams has enough employees. Anyone making the case for more employees in category X should be challenged about which category Y of employees should be cut. The marginal dollar of spending should be devoted to matching the financial aid packages provided to students at Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford, at least for admitted students who are accepted by those schools.

4) Does therapy for Williams students work? I have my doubts! I am ready to believe that hundreds (?) of Williams students today will make use of therapy if it is free and convenient, just as they will make use of free massages and other luxuries. Ten or 20 years ago, only scores (?) of students made use of the (less free? less convenient?) therapy that was available. But what is the causal effect of that therapy?

5) Never forget The Tablecloth Colors! Ainsley O’Connell ’06 warned us a decade ago:

I am frustrated by many of the ways in which the campus has changed, most particularly the sudden prominence of the well-intentioned but detrimental Office of Campus Life [OCL], which is locked in a stagnating cycle of its own design. By in effect naming itself “the decider” when it comes to student life, the campus life office has alienated the College’s best leaders. As a result of this rift, the office has become inwardly-focused, self-promotional and deeply resistant to constructive criticism. Student life is student-driven no longer.

The more therapists the college hires, the less room there is for students who fulfill similar roles. Should Williams replace RASAN, for example, with paid employees? I hope not! But, the more counselors we hire, the more likely that outcome. Back in the day, a melancholy first year would talk to her JA. Do we really prefer a Williams at which this JA is told (required?) to send her student to a paid therapist?


Diversity and Equity Forum I

Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 1.

On Thursday, students and administrators discussed major campus issues at the first diversity and equity forum of the year.

The forum was held in Griffin 3 and was hosted by Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Leticia Haynes. Haynes began hosting the forums last year and plans to continue them this year.

The article is well-done but not perfect. First, tell us how many people were there! The picture that goes along with the story shows 15, but perhaps it was taken early or late in the proceedings.


Of course, even a forum with 10 (?) students may be worth running, but Record readers (especially trustees!) need to know if this is a topic that truly engages the student body. As best I can tell, it doesn’t. Students don’t really care about diversity/equity, or at least they don’t care enough to show up at a forum.

Students raised concerns about the high standards and expectations brought on by the student culture. They said that many students feel the need to aim for perfection in all facets, a pursuit that can cause unnecessary and unhealthy stress.

“It’s an absurd ideal, and it’s not achievable,” Natalie Wilkinson ’19 said.

Recall Brandi Brown’s ’07 work on Eph-ailure almost a decade ago. (EphBlog has been around so long that a student who participated in that discussion is now a Williams professor!) My thoughts have not changed much.

First, it is unsurprising that Williams students are stressed, competitive and fear failure. That’s what Williams selects for. If you are comfortable getting a C on a paper in high school, then you don’t get into Williams. You may be a happier, more well-adjusted person, but you won’t be hanging out with Natalie Wilkinson in Paresky.

Second, I don’t mind a little stress and competition. I want students to be worried when taking a math test from Steve Miller. I want them to think twice before handing in something sloppy to Joe Cruz. Moreover, stress and competition require failure (or at least low grades). There is much less value in getting an A from Bill Wagner for a well-done paper if even sloppy work gets the same grade.

Third, I worry much more about problems where one can make a plausible claim that Williams is worse off than other schools. Is there any reason to think that this is more of a problem here than elsewhere? I doubt it.

Fourth, stress and failure are a part of life. Want stress? Try losing your job and still having a big mortgage to pay. It would be a bad thing if the first stress/competition/failure that Williams students encountered happened after they graduated.


Constructive Criticism for the CTA

The Committee on Transparency and Accountability is, potentially, an important movement, especially if they follow our advice from yesterday. But they also run the risk of descending into childish irrelevance if they insist on going forward with their current set of poorly conceived demands. Time for some constructive criticism!

The repeal of the 50 year lock on meeting minutes and the release of all minutes in a timely and accessible manner.

This is an absurd demand, both because it will never happen and because there are other options which accomplish the same goal.

First, it will never happen because the trustees need to speak freely about difficult topics, especially the hiring/firing of presidents and senior staff. Second, there are documents which would provide 95% of the information you need and which could be made public: board/faculty meeting presentation materials. (The College can’t make public materials which mention a specific person (especially a specific student) but almost none of the materials in this category do so.)

At every board meeting (and at many faculty meetings) presentation materials are distributed, documents which outline and summarize all the relevant information about topic X. If you are interested in changing College policy, than this is the information you want. These documents, especially the materials at faculty meetings, are semi-public anyway, since so many people see them. Indeed, EphBlog has published some of them from time to time. Making these materials public is a reasonable goal to start with.

That minutes be taken at subcommittee meetings and be readily available to all members of the Board.

Be careful that you don’t appear to be idiots. Do you actually know for a fact that minutes are taken at every subcommittee meeting? I have my doubts! There 10 board subcommittees. Who takes all these notes? And, even if notes are taken, are you sure that they aren’t already made available to all members of the board? I would be shocked if they weren’t! Of course, you could be right about both these things, but make sure that you are! If you go to the trustees and ask for something which either doesn’t exist or already happens, they will assume that you are spoiled, clueless children.

That the current College Council presidents and Minority Coalition chairs will sit in on trustee meetings as student representatives.

Don’t be babies! It is reasonable to ask for a student member on the board. Indeed, EphBlog has described the step-by-step plan by which this might be achieved. There are other schools with student trustees. But to demand 4 (?) students on the board is absurd! That will never happen. Asking for it makes you seem irrational and uninformed. Better, now, to ask for one student representative, perhaps appointed jointly by College Council and the Minority Coalition, to join the Executive Committee (EC) of the Society of Alumni (SoA).

That the Board of Trustees create and present a yearly report on the work of the Board . . .

Again, it is counterproductive to ask the Board to do more work. Instead, you want access to more information so that you can do the work yourself. You should write an annual report on progress made and goals for next year. You should deliver it each year to the Board. You should drive the conversation. Also, once the College makes public (almost) all presentation material distributed at trustee and faculty meetings, you will be as well informed at the trustees are about items like “major financial and investment decisions.”

Most importantly: There are many faculty/alums/staff who are extremely well-informed about how Williams works. Talk to them! Get some feedback before you go to the trustees. Educate yourselves. EphBlog is here to help . . .


Coalition for Transparency and Accountability

ctaMost interesting new student movement this year is the Coalition for Transparency and Accountability. Good stuff! EphBlog’s advice:

1) Focus this week-end on transparency rather than accountability. You can always come back to accountability at the next Trustee meeting.

2) With regard to transparency, focus on the general principal rather than too many specific examples. You want to get the trustees to agree to the following:

EphBlog’s Maxim #9: William should be as transparent about topic X as any other elite college unless the Trustees explicitly decide/explain otherwise.

Perhaps this could be worded better? The advantages of this focus include:

a) A clear rule. If Amherst or Harvard or Berkley are transparent about course ratings, endowment investments or faculty meetings, than Williams should be transparent as well. No need to adjudicate every possible topic ahead of time.

b) A default toward openness. The trustees have already committed to greater transparency. You want to make such transparency the explicit default unless there are compelling reasons to be secret.

c) A burden on the trustees. Your current proposal asks the trustees to do a bunch of work. That is a mistake. The trustees are busy people! They don’t need any more assignments. Instead, you want them to have to do work only if they block transparency. As long as Williams is transparent, the trustees shouldn’t have to do anything.

d) A strong standard. You don’t want Williams to be as transparent as other elite colleges in general or on average. The College could meet that standard by being more transparent than Amherst on topic X and less on topic Y. Instead, on each item separately, Williams must be at least as transparent as the most transparent school is on that topic.

3) Be collaborative. The trustees are your friends. They love Williams as much as you do. (Even if you don’t believe that, you should act as if you do. Such tactics are much more likely to achieve your goals than mindless confrontations.) In that spirit, you should compile items that Williams is less transparent about relative to peer schools. (Again, your advantage is that the trustees have already committed to transparency. You are, therefore, helping them to achieve the goal that they themselves set.)

My favorite example is student course evaluations. At Harvard, for example, students can read every comment that every past student has made (in the Harvard equivalent of our SCSS forms) about every class. Very transparent! Williams should be equally transparent. Another example is endowment transparency. Wellesley provides many more details about its endowment management than Williams does. That shouldn’t be the case. We should be at least as transparent as Wellesley. A third example involves grading. Middlebury provides more details than Williams does. There is no reason for that, assuming that the trustees are really committed to greater transparency. More examples under the EphBlog Transparency tag.

A copy of the current version of the CTA’s demands is below the break. Worth going through item by item?

Read more


Growth in Faculty and Staff Since 2002

Most interesting sentence in the Record this week:

Under the tenures of President Morton Shapiro and President Adam Falk, full-time positions at the College have greatly increased. That said, the growth of faculty has been 10 percent higher than staff since 2002.

Anyone who follows higher education closely (like our friends at Dartblog) would find this claim shocking/unbelievable. Director of Media Relations Mary Dettloff kindly provided these details to EphBlog.

1. Since 2002, there has been growth throughout the college — staff AND faculty. Schapiro grew the faculty dramatically from approximately 259 in 2002 to 306 in 2009. That represents an 18 percent increase. Falk further increased faculty to approximately 340 (our current number/2016). That is another 11 percent since 2009. So, total faculty growth since 2002 is 81 positions or 31 percent.

2. Since 2002 non-faculty staff has grown by 138 FTEs or 19 percent. This includes about 24 daycare workers that we brought on when we in-sourced the childcare center.

3. Growth in non-faculty staff occurs partly as a lagging response to growth in the faculty and the demands that places on the institution (more faculty means more demands on staff at all levels — daycare, faculty housing, science center technicians, as examples). Staff growth also has occurred as an investment in a changing student population. Today, we have a professionally staffed academic resources center, the Center for Learning in Action (community engagement), a Muslim chaplain, and increased staffing in the health center, just to name a few. None of those existed in 2002.

To sum it up, since 2002, the faculty has grown 31 percent while the non-faculty staff has grown 19 percent.

Good news! Williams should have more faculty (and smaller classes and more tutorials). It does not need any more staff. But there is still a lot to unpack in those details. (Thanks to Dettloff for providing them.) Worth three days to do so?


More Shade from Chicago

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

Free speech is at risk at the very institution where it should be assured: the university.

Invited speakers are disinvited because a segment of a university community deems them offensive, while other orators are shouted down for similar reasons. … In many cases, these efforts have been supported by university administrators.

Indeed. Falk was supported by Dean Bolton and many (most? all?) other Williams administrators. Note also the six (!) usages of some version of “comfort”

A university should not be a sanctuary for comfort … Demands are made to eliminate readings that might make some students uncomfortable. … Some assert that universities should be refuges from intellectual discomfort and that their own discomfort with conflicting and challenging views should override the value of free and open discourse. … Universities cannot be viewed as a sanctuary for comfort … Having one’s assumptions challenged and experiencing the discomfort that sometimes accompanies this process are intrinsic parts of an excellent education.

Echos of Robert Gaudino’s claim that “uncomfortable learning” should be at the center of a Williams education. Recall that Gaudino’s Ph.D. was from Chicago. Is there a connection?

[Post edited after publication.]


Montgomery Guide

This seems a worthwhile effort:

Montgomery Guide aims to collect experiences from every corner of the Williams community: faculty, staff, freshmen, seniors, and alumni. We named this collection of stories after R.A. Montgomery ’1958, who pioneered the famous Choose Your Own Adventure book series. Through Montgomery Guide, we share the experiences of those in our community so we can all use them for a little more guidance, solidarity, and ease in choosing our own adventure.

Kudos to all involved! Here is are some EphBlog’s thoughts.


Uncomfortable Learning Speakers


The Record published this nice collection. What an excellent article, much better than the biased tripe served up later (parts I and II) by Emilia Maluf ’18. Read the whole thing.


Asian American Studies at Williams

We talked a little bit about cultural studies at Williams earlier in the week. Today, keeping with that theme, we turn our attentions to this record article:

The administration’s response to students’ demands for more Asian American studies courses and professors specializing in Asian American studies has proven lackluster. At the panel, it was stated that the administration has suggested that student demand for Asian American studies is insufficient. The administration thinks that it would be more fruitful to dedicate the College’s resources to an area in which courses have traditionally been more popular and overenrolled, such as economics.

Shameful! We ought not to be just offering what’s already popular. My thoughts:

1) While I equivocate on the value of cultural studies generally, I don’t find any reasons not to hire an Asian-Americanist to the faculty convincing.  All reasons to have Africana or Latino studies stand as fine reasons to offer more courses in Asian American studies.

2) Although I struggle to find good principles here. What is our metric for what subfields of ethnic/cultural studies deserve our attention? Is our standard rough proportionality of offered courses to population? Native Americans comprise about a percentage point of the U.S population, and a total of four students at Williams.  Should we be offering a major/concentration in Native American studies? I ask that honestly, and w/o facetiousness.

Moreover, the College’s American studies major is incomplete without Asian American studies courses. An examination of Asian American issues is essential to understanding America as a whole. Also, the College is not in a position to say that there is insufficient demand for Asian American studies courses if students do not even have the option of taking an Asian American course every semester.

3) Essential? Okay, does that hold for the study of every ethnic group of size in the US? Or is there something about Asian-Americans that’s supposed to be supranormally edifying? I’m on board w/ expanding Asian American studies, but, I don’t know that I’m not also for expanding the race critical studies of other ethnicities, too!

For example, we don’t have any dedicated, tenured professors in Arabic. Maybe we should have one. And what about people of/from the Indian Subcontinent? Asian-American studies could, technically, include them too but it seems “Asian” is usually construed to mean “East Asian” at Williams.

Someone, either in the administration or among the growing swell of student activists, needs to sit down and have a long think about what our approach to cultural studies is generally — what courses to offer, what faculty to hire, what departments to found. Every student lobby to hire more professors of X discipline is going to fail if we can’t find a way to frame this holistically and lay down operative standards of what to teach.

Alas, I am not the person to figure any of these things out. But, perhaps you are? If so, Ephblog is always looking for new authors!


Woodward Report II

Simplicio, a regular commentator here and at the Record, suggests viewing the Falk/Derbyshire dispute through the lens of the Woodward Report. Let’s do that for five days. Today is Day 2.

What is the closest Eph connection? Former faculty member William Sloane Coffin.

So if the elimination of oppression is a rational goal for society (and I think it is), and therefore also a rational goal towards which the exercise of free speech ought to be teleologically directed, then the extent to which free speech helps us reach this “truth” gives us a rational criterion for delimiting the extent to which free speech is to be tolerated. If democratic, undominated discussion within the community so determines, we may prohibit the malicious advocacy of racist or imperialist ideas. As Rev. William Sloane Coffin pointed out: “Unless social justice is established in a country, civil liberties, which always concern intellectuals more than does social justice, look like luxuries. The point is that the three ideals of the French revolution – liberty, equality, fraternity, cannot be separated. We have to deal with equality first.”

This is from the “Dissenting Statement” portion of the report. But isn’t it just perfectly in tune — despite being written 40+ years ago — with the views of the Williams social justice warriors who opposed allowing Venker or Derbyshire to speak at Williams?

Consider the Record editorial (!) from last fall:

Though Venker’s speech is legally protected, the College, as a private institution, has its own set of rules about what discourse is acceptable. In general, the College should not allow speech that challenges fundamental human rights and devalues people based on identity markers, like being a woman. Much of what Venker has said online, in her books and in interviews falls into this category. While free speech is important and there are problems with deeming speech unacceptable, students must not be unduly exposed to harmful stereotypes in order to live and learn here without suffering emotional injury. It is possible that some speech is too harmful to invite to campus. The College should be a safe space for students, a place where people respect others’ identities. Venker’s appearance would have been an invasion of that space.

The big change from the Yale of 1975 to the Williams of 2015 is that the author (Kenneth J. Barnes) of the Dissenting Statement to the Woodward Report has won, at least at Williams. (Temporarily, we (all?) hope.)


A Minor Problem II

We’re spending two days on minors at the college. If you haven’t, read this article, which we’ll be covering, before proceeding to the excerpted text below:

Having established how minors better illustrate an applicant’s areas of specialization to employers, and why specialization is even important in one’s education to begin with, we can now examine how minors could help support a diverse education in particular. Currently, about 38 percent of students at the College double major. Double majors take up a significant fraction of one’s education, and ought to be pursued by a more limited group of students to whom a pair of majors confers some unique value in light of their interests. At a school where breadth and diversity, especially in coursework, are core tenets of the education, it’s surprising that such a wide swath of the student body pours their academic careers primarily into two areas of study. But, this phenomenon is not a reflection of a student body that is set on double majoring. At Dartmouth, a slightly larger institution which is less devoted to the liberal arts than here, only about 15 percent of the students double major. This is because 30 percent of students at Dartmouth graduate with a minor.

While I duly commend our student authors for coming at Dartmouth sideways like that (“less devoted” to the liberal arts? Ouch!),  I think they’re burying the lede somewhat. Why does anyone care about minors to begin with? I doubt it’s a money thing. We went over this briefly yesterday, but, all save for the most optimistic would agree that minors are usually of middling value in the job market.

The only serious reason remaining for pursuing a minor (other than vanity) is for the structure that a minor degree builds into your education. And that’s what we should really be worried about: are students flocking towards supernumerary minors and majors because so much of their non-major coursework lacks coherence, and structure?

That explanation satisfies me, at least more thoroughly than any other. For all their great talent and alleged intelligence, Williams students are still very young and mostly untutored. It’s not strange that they’d want guidance. And, I think we realize that! We require faculty advising for first-years, major advising for upperclassmen, and staff bespoke academic advisers for near everything else — law school, medical school, foreign service, study abroad.

Why can’t we do something similar for non-major coursework? Granted, there are problems with advising, and giving every student an academic adviser for all four years would be impractical, but, given how often and loudly we hype the value of liberality in education, we ought to at least be doing something to make sure students are proceeding through their out-of-major classes in a way that’s thoughtful.

Comments welcome — particularly from ephs in academia (of which there are a few.)



A Minor Problem I

Among what seems to be the last crop of Record articles for the year is this Op-Ed on minors at the college. Sadly, perhaps because it was published right before finals, the piece hasn’t elicited any comments. Which is a shame! The two student authors who penned this article obviously put some time into writing it and we ought to take some time to listen, although not uncritically, to what they have to say. An excerpt:

While the value of having minors for the job search process has the easy potential to be exaggerated, minors offer some appreciable value when graduates seek work. This value comes in the form of official certification. Students have the ability, even without minors, to take around five courses in a subject. But, for employers, it is difficult to discern such a specialty without formal certification. While employers with thorough hiring procedures will likely notice such areas of commitment by combing through an applicant’s transcript, a minor can ensure that an applicant’s disciplines of specialty don’t go overlooked. Minors do not change one’s ability to specialize in a subject. Rather, by providing official certification, they make it easier for these academic specialties to be recognized.

Quite a bit here, but, let’s be brave and soldier on. Comments:

1) I start to take issue at the second line: minors offer “appreciable value” when graduates seek work? I’m doubtful. Major degrees barely signal expertise anymore; why would a minor? My guess is that a minor — even one relevant to a given position — helps you get a job about as much as being an amateur flautist helps you get into Williams. Which is to say, not very.

2) Even if we’re willing to grant that minor degrees have “appreciable,” albeit small, value to employers, is that a good reason to offer them? There’s quite a few things the college could do to pump up the value of the Williams degree: start mentioning our US News ranking in advertisements, recruit harder, maybe inflate grades a bit more to help those not graduating cum laude get into fancy professional schools.

And, strangely, I’m alright with most of those things! We ought to do the best we can to communicate the value of a Williams education to everyone — prospective students, employers, the hoi polloi, everyone — but we shouldn’t cheapen ourselves to do it.

Now grade inflation is well ahead of the “cheapening ourselves” line. Is offering minors? I’d have to say  so. We’re talking about a total of five courses for a minor — one introductory, one “gateway” and three or so conducted at a level that we might term “intermediate.” Is that really enough expertise to award a degree for? If so, where do we draw the line? Should we also start giving students commendatory stickers for every course they manage to pass?

In any serious field, and I like to think that all areas of studies at Williams are serious, five courses is enough to get your feet wet. Which is alright! You can only do so much in four-years; perhaps recognizing how much is left to learn would do the student body more good than vigorously credentialing what little they’ve actually learned.


World of Work

What are your impressions of Professor Marlene Sandstrom’s thoughts on her new role as Dean of the College?

As Dean of the College, Sandstrom will work with President Falk on big-picture challenges. “One of the biggest challenges is that the world of work is changing. Career means something different now than it meant 25 or even 10 years ago,” Sandstrom said.

Gibberish. There is no evidence that the career paths — or whatever ill-defined meaning of “career” Sandstrom has in mind — of Williams graduates will be any different for the class of 2016 than they were for the classes of 2006 or 1991. People have been observing, for decades, that most Ephs will have a variety of “careers” and that, we hope, a liberal arts education would help to prepare them to walk that path. Here is an example from Commencement 8 years ago.

Francis Oakley hit on similar themes in his induction address more than 30 years ago. The world was changing very fast, even back in 1985, and Oakley argued that a Williams liberal arts education was the best possible preparation for that world. I am glad that Dean Sandstrom agrees with Oakley, but embarrassed (for her) that she thinks any of this is new.

“Dean Bolton initiated some really positive changes to our first-year advising system, and it is much stronger now,” she said. “There may be ways to make it even more effective. The advising relationship has the potential to be a very powerful one for students, especially if it gets off to a good start from the outset.”

Hmmm. First, precisely what changes did Bolton initiate? I have my doubts that anything substantive has been done, but informed commentary is welcome. Second, is there any evidence at all that first-year advising is “much stronger now?” Not that I have seen. (And, yes, it is pathetic that the Record never asks a skeptical question in these interviews.) Third, none of this is necessarily Bolton’s fault. First-year advising has been broken for at least 30 years, not because the Williams administration is incompetent but because it is a hard problem. Connect a first year with a faculty member and the latter will not know the answer to 90% of the questions that the former has. I have, of course, a partial solution to this problem, which the margins of this blog post are too narrow to contain . . .


Play Trivia Tonight

Play trivia tonight!

Trivia is a glorious and time-honored Williams tradition dating back to 1966. Once in January and once in May, all Williams students—and anyone else who wants to, for that matter—are invited to stay up way too late for a night of music, goofy acting, and things-you-know-but-can’t-quite-remember. It’s the final exam for everything you never learned at Williams College.

We are Taha Noa Noa, the team who won last January’s contest. That is the prize for winning trivia: more trivia. If you win this contest, you have the privilege and requirement of running the next one.

The denizens and hanger-ons at EphBlog disagree about many things. But we all agree that you should try out Trivia at least once during your four years at Williams. Instructions here.

Best team name this year? I vote for We Know Words. We Have All The Best Words. Does any team have an EphBlog connection?


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