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This week’s Opinions Call-and-Response: Athletics!

Last week, we covered the Williams Record‘s call-and-response series of articles in “The Slutty Bitch Chronicles.” This seems to be the new trend in the Record‘s Opinions section: someone writes an op-ed in one issue of the Record, and three op-eds are published in response in the next. And you say debate is dead at Williams, David!

This week’s call-and-response topic: Athletic Recruitment!

The initial article: “Let’s lose the Directors’ Cup: A call to end athletic recruitment,” by Katherine Hatfield, November 20, 2019.

I’ve heard the argument that recruitment of athletes brings in more well-rounded people. The implicit opposite of a “well-rounded” athlete is a one-dimensional nerd. Academic achievement isn’t everything, of course … But our heavy recruitment of athletes glorifies a particular form of well-roundedness and a particular type of person: likely thin or strong, white and privileged. This value system is rooted in the College’s history as a place for white, privileged men, pursuing their masculine endeavors of physical dominance.

Excessive focus on our athletic program comes at the cost of the stated goals of admissions as set forth in our mission statement: diversity of all kinds, academic achievement and varied forms of personal promise. So, let’s stop recruiting for athletics.

Of course, if we stopped athletic recruitment, we would lose the Director’s Cup. But our athletic program would survive. Ideally, our current competitors in the NESCAC would also stop recruitment so that they would remain fair competition. If not, our teams could play community colleges or club teams at Div. I institutions.

Now, this week’s edition features three op-eds, all by student athletes, in response to Hatfield.

“Recruited athletes belong here: Empirical evidence as justification for the continued recruitment of varsity athletes at the College,” by Charlie Carpenter

Thus, the median GPA of sophomore, junior and senior varsity athletes is above a 3.40; the average GPA of the student body is a 3.45. Since the specific grade distributions of varsity athletes and the entire student body are not available, it is impossible to say where specifically the median GPA of varsity athletes lies – however it is certainly above a 3.40 given that 56 percent of eligible varsity athletes had above a 3.40. I understand I am comparing a median to an average (due to restrictions on available data) and excluding the first-year class; however, I think it is incredibly unfair for some non-athletes to believe their athletic peers do not deserve to be in the classroom when the numbers do not reflect this belief, which was referenced in a recent op-ed (“Let’s lose the Director’s Cup”, The Williams Record, Nov. 20, 2019). Yes, there are confounding variables such as the demographic makeup of varsity athletes, but that does not make the assertion that athletes do not perform as well their peers any more accurate.

By making this claim you diminish the quality and work of our admissions team, who carefully decide who deserves a place at Williams. This is and should not be a decision made by students. I ask that you not only respect the admission team’s decision, but also my, as well as my fellow varsity, recruited, athletes place on the Williams College campus. I would never presume that someone does not deserve to be here, and I ask the same of you.

Athletic recruitment is not the problem: If you want to change the demographics of athletic teams, change the demographics of the school,” by Sarah Lyell

While it is true that certain sports teams are predominantly made up of white students who attended prep schools, the claim that Williams lowers academic standards for athletic recruits is completely unfounded. We do not have statistics which demonstrate one way or another how recruited athletes’ grades and test scores differ from the whole of the student body. All we have is the claim that “some ‘non-ers’ feel that some of their athletic peers do not deserve to be here.” Aside from being wildly vague, is this really enough evidence to claim that athletic recruits are not academically qualified?

From my experience as a recruited athlete (albeit for a low-profile sport), I know that I was expected to have grades and test scores on par with the whole of the student body. Of course, without statistics, I cannot say with any kind of certainty whether my experience was universal. What I do know, however, is that if recruited athletes make up a third of the incoming class and are only a fraction of the group favored by admissions (including, but not limited to, legacy students, children of large donors, early decision applicants, underrepresented minorities, and students with an especially compelling talent), they cannot have significantly lower grades and test scores than the rest of the student body while Williams maintains its spot atop the U.S. News rankings.

Finally, “#whyd3: In defense of athletic recruitment,” by Lindsay Avant

Yes, I was a recruited athlete. Yes, I went to a prep school. And I deserve to be at Williams just as much as every other Williams student.

How often do you deal with imposter syndrome as a white person from New York attending a Predominantly White Institution? Well, for me, I’ve been dealing with imposter syndrome since I was 12 years old in middle school. As a Black woman who grew up in a Black neighborhood, and add that to the fact that I am by no means rich, (the only way I could attend this College Preparatory School was because of their generous financial aid) I’m sure you can imagine how going to a prep school had its challenges. One day a white person will tell me I was only there because I’m Black and the next day a different white person will tell me I was only there because I just happened to be decent at playing a game with a ball. If you would have told 12-year-old me that these comments would not cease, not when I got to high school, definitely not when I was applying to college (“Oh you’ll get into a good college because you’re Black,” and when I got into Williams the only reason had to be that I was an athlete), and, unfortunately, not in college, I’m not sure I would have believed people could be so cruel.

So, I’m sure you can imagine why I have a problem with more people telling me that I did not truly earn my place here.

Any thoughts?

Personally, my thought is that, while these back-and-forths provide a good quantity of content, they aren’t always quality. If I were the Record editors, there’s only one of these op-eds that I would have published (guess which one?), rather than have three articles saying the same thing with varying levels of coherence and persuasiveness. That’s their job, after all, as editors. Still, it does make for entertaining Wednesday afternoons.

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Eagle Overview of WIFI Controversy

Excellent Eagle article from last June about the WIFI controversy.

Student group ignites tension over free speech at Williams College
Posted Saturday, June 1, 2019 7:03 pm
By Jeongyoon Han, Eagle correspondent

WILLIAMSTOWN — At graduation Sunday, Williams College celebrates achievement, but also closes a semester in which a divisive debate raised questions of free speech and drew national notice.

A request by students to create a group supportive of Israel was rejected by the student government, the College Council, in late April, amid accusations that the group’s beliefs did not fit the moral values of the student body.

In the face of complaints from national right-leaning news outlets, Jewish organizations and free speech groups, the college’s president and administration intervened, ultimately reversing the rejection in mid-May.

When the campus comes back to life this fall, the Williams Initiative for Israel, or WIFI, will be a registered student organization, having full access to funding and services available to official student groups.

But along the way, its birth sparked debates over pro-Israeli thought in the United States, scrutiny of how student groups win approval and the nature of campus political debate and free expression.

Student Molly Berenbaum, the group’s founder and interim president, said that granting WIFI official status gives those who hold pro-Israel beliefs the right to express their views — just like any other student organization.

“Fundamentally, we’re really no different from any other political or cultural or advocacy group here on campus,” said Berenbaum. The group seeks to bring a more “balanced conversation” to campus regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she said.

In a move called unprecedented, the council removed students’ names from minutes of proceedings. And the final vote on WIFI’s status was held by secret ballot, a move that limited transparency amid calls for steps to protect student safety.

Steve Miller, a professor of mathematics, said that denying WIFI official status posed a threat to diverse thought and intellectual growth at Williams.

“This is not an institution of indoctrination,” Miller said. “This is a larger problem of shutting down discourse that you disagree with. We are limiting speech, and when you limit speech, you limit the ability to grow and to learn.”

See the rest of the article below the break.

How is WIFI doing this year? Does it have members/meetings? Has it put on any events? Has it received funding?

Read more

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We Need YOU!!

The anticipated makeup of the CC-established Task Force (to abolish CC):

Hi all!

Are you interested in a Winter Study course that includes no formalized assignments (except for a single collaborative document produced at the end of Winter Study), getting a stipend to spend on food and snacks for meetings, working mainly at your own pace with a group of your peers, and getting to be a part of an actual change making institution at Williams that will hopefully last long beyond your time here??
If so, then you should consider joining the TASK FORCE ON THE FUTURE OF STUDENT GOVERNMENT!!
We are looking for representatives specifically from a club sport, a performance based club, a faith based club, and a community service based club to serve as members of this body due to your unique and extremely valuable perspectives on this campus. The Task Force will spend Winter Study re-thinking what student government should look like here at Williams College. This group is incredibly important for student life, funding capacities, policy making potential, and much more, both for current AND future Williams students. If you’ve ever thought, “Student government at Williams should do x, y, and z…” then join the Task Force and make your voice heard!
 
We would love to hear from any and all of you that are interested in applying – fill out a self-nom for consideration at this link NOW! Spots close TOMORROW, so if you’re interested in coming aboard, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns to either Ellie Sherman (eas6) or Carlos Cabrera-Lomeli (cc15)!!
Best,
Ellie and Carlos :)
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The Slutty Bitch Chronicles

The Record‘s Op-Ed section seems to have become something of a meme recently, with students giving it an unusual amount of (negative) attention. Several Op-eds are responsible for this (see Op-eds relating to Kleiner and to Mauna Kea), but those are notable in large part because they form a professors-vs-students dichotomy on campus. In contrast, a controversial series of articles has emerged as an argument within the student body: the slutty bitch chronicles.

The original:

In defense of the slutty bitch: Not letting society dictate women’s preferences

The response:

Hold “slutty bitch” accountable for her actions: Being cis, white and privileged is never an excuse for being colorblind or trans-exclusionary

The counter-response

Guilty by omission?: Standing trial: A defense of “In defense of the slutty bitch”

Personally, I found the original article to be pretty poorly written and not to have much of a point, the second article to be over the top in its indignant outrage towards an opinion that really wasn’t much of an opinion in the first place, and the third, while a fair response to the second, just totally unnecessary to write (did these two mediocre op-eds really need a third response?).

Thankfully, something good has come out of this dumpster fire: from the Op-eds section being something of a meme have emerged some great actual memes on Williams Memes for Sun-Dappled Tweens.

And my favorite, of particular relevance to the present audience:

 


(At least one of these memers had to have visited EphBlog at least once in their lives, to grab that screenshot for the last meme. So on the off chance you’re reading this:

  1. Yes, stealing memes for a post is very lazy journalism, worthy of the worst of BuzzFeed. Guilty as charged. But it’s a meme, that’s what happens.
  2. Do student memers want to be credited? I’m not doing so because when I was a student I would not have wanted my name to be associated with EphBlog in any way, shape, or form, but on the other hand it’s your content that we’re…profiting? off of? [Does EphBlog make anything close to a profit?] And posting on a private meme page is not granting permission to have your name publicly associated with that material, so while I can somewhat justify to myself reposting the memes because that’s what memes are, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so with names.)
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College Council to restructure?

In a post a few weeks ago, I wrote about on-going discussions about the future of the College Council and the possibility of paying College Council members.  Those discussions have progressed and, as discussed in this article in the Williams Record,  College Council is taking concrete steps to implement changes:

At its Nov. 12 meeting, College Council (CC) passed a resolution to form a committee charged with drafting a proposal for a new student government. The resolution, authored by CC co-presidents Ellie Sherman ’20 and Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí ’20, passed by a vote of 11-9.

The resolution sets out guidelines for a “Student Government Task Force,” which will meet over Winter Study in order to draft the proposal. It will present the finished product to the student body by the end of February.

If there are students willing to take the time to carefully consider how best to structure and run the College Council, this is an excellent idea, and a very good Winter Study-type project.  I don’t know when the College Council was last restructured, but in my opinion its a good idea to revisit the structure periodically.  Aside from simply taking a fresh look at things that people take for granted, the student body turns over every few years, and it makes sense for current students to take ownership of an institution designed to be run by them for their collective benefit.

The committee is apparently likely to be structured so that the vast majority of its members will be representative of other campus groups:

CC will deliberate further on the membership of the Task Force next week, but it will tentatively include three representatives from the Minority Coalition (MinCo); two from CC; one from the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC); one from club athletics; one from a performance-based registered student organization (RSO); one from a faith-based RSO; one from a community service-based RSO; one from the Williams Outing Club (WOC); and two at-large student representatives. Additionally, CC will appoint two College staff members to serve on the Task Force, but without voting or decision-making power.

While having “representative-type” members has some advantages, the proposed structure appears to reserve 9 of 11 slots for such members, leaving almost no room for students who are not there to represent particular types of student groups.  I am guessing that such groups take up a large proportion of College Council’s time, but I not crazy about the idea about having those groups so directly involved in reshaping the institution.  Aside from the obvious problem, for example, of whether one athlete can be said to adequately represent all student athletes for this purpose, why are non-community serviced-based RSO’s (as an example) not given a seat at the table?  If it were up to me, I would have more at-large representatives, and make sure that the committee takes time to meet with the various groups while they formulate their proposal.

On the other hand, if part of the point is to give students ownership of the instutition and its organization and structure (and I think it is), perhaps having alums tell them what to do is counter-productive.

Finally, the article states that members of the committee can either have this be their Winter Study course, or they can receive an $800-$1000 stipend.  I’m less bothered by this than I thought I would be.  While I think having the committee members do this as their Winter Study course is preferable, I can see where some students might not want to give up whatever they are already scheduled to take, and could use some extra money.

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English Department Boycott and Effects

From the Williams Record this week:

“In the wake of a student-led protest which called for students to boycott all English classes that “do not engage substantially with race,” Chair and Professor of English Katie Kent ’88 reported that pre-registration in the department was not substantially changed from previous years. “Our enrollments show no significant difference when compared to our usual averages over the last few semesters,” she said.”

As expressed in my post last week (particularly through the comments), I’m in general support of the message of the boycott. Nevertheless, I’m not surprised. English majors continue to need to take English classes; non-majors continue to need writing intensives, and though there are many possibilities for these, English classes continue to be among the most interesting and accessible. Life at the college continues. The point, in my opinion, was never to succeed in boycotting, but to use something as extreme-sounding as a boycott to bring attention to what’s seen as the desperate need of improvement in the department.

On Thursday, the English department announced plans to hold a series of meetings regarding the department’s culture. The meetings are sponsored by the newly created “student experience committee,” which aims to collect student perspectives on the department. In an email to English majors and other students, Associate Professor of English Bernie Rhie said, “As the name of the committee suggests, our aim is to get a more textured sense of the ways that students at Williams experience the English Department. What are your thoughts and feelings about the department, and what are your hopes for its future?” Rhie added that, though the committee was formed prior to the boycott, “the announcement of the boycott obviously makes our work all the more urgent.”

Do I believe that this committee will make any more of an impact than the average Williams committee? Not necessarily. But it does reinforce for me that professors like Bernie–whom I see as the future of the department, and among those who will have the most say in what the English department becomes–take at least the message of the boycott seriously. Perhaps I’m reading that more from my own experience with Bernie than from the quote, but all the same, I believe this is a matter that certain members of the English department take seriously. Whether or not it’s a problem that can be solved by committee, knowing that there are members of the department who support it is, personally, enough–because that’s really the way I see things potentially starting to change.

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Students call for boycott of English department – Williams Record

The Record has a nice, thorough article on the call for a boycott of the English department, by Danny Jin, Samuel Wolf, and Kevin Yang. Some passages, and thoughts, from the article.

The original petition said the boycott will not end until the College searches for a senior-level woman of color from outside of the College to chair the English department, immediately runs searches for tenure-track faculty members specializing in African American, Latinx, Native American and Asian American literature, and conducts an external investigation of English. The petition revised the demand for a chair, calling instead for the hiring of a senior faculty member specializing in ethnic literature.

Any thoughts on why the petition-writers reversed their demand for a chair? How do you think they came to that decision to revise their demands down? To me, the original demand just seems unnecessarily and unproductively specific, so that would be my reasoning,  but after publishing something like this and having it get such a large amount of traction, it seems odd to backstep like that.

The petition calls out what its creators see as a “racist culture” in the department.

My anecdotal evidence doesn’t and shouldn’t mean much, but from my perspective as a student, this view that there’s some degree of a racist culture in the English department, while not necessarily a mainstream or majority view, certainly wasn’t a controversial one. Even before the whole Kent-Wang altercation came up at the end of last year, it was the sort of thing that you’d hear from relatively non “radical” or politically engaged English majors, just your typical students–that English classes were unexpectedly conservative in many ways, that many professors were behind the times and used their subject matter as an excuse not to consider the importance of a world beyond the white literature that might have been their specialty. This all to say, yes, it’s news that there’s some level of organized “boycott” happening now, but for students, I don’t think this is adding so much new to the conversation as it might seem to be from the outside.

Kent also emphasized the range of professors in the department with experience in “scholarship of underrepresented groups.” She cited Owen, Love, Associate Professor of English Anjuli Raza Kolb (who currently teaches at the University of Toronto), Associate Professor of English Bernie Rhie and Franny Choi, a Bolin Fellow in English who will teach next spring.

This made me laugh a bit, that Kent’s great defense of the range of professors dealing with diverse scholarship involves so many notable absences–Love’s from last semester, Choi who isn’t even here yet, Raza Kolb who left for Toronto even after getting tenure.

From an article last year, “A closer look at departures of College faculty of color”:

Although Raza Kolb received tenure this year, she began applying for other jobs when she became worried about a possible negative outcome of her tenure decision. “The process is not designed to adequately assess the work of scholars in what are still considered marginal fields,” said Raza Kolb, who specializes in postcolonial literature. She chose to pursue the position in Toronto after she received tenure.

Raza Kolb also cited issues mentioned in the FSI report, such as a lack of recognition for the increased service burdens of faculty of color and comments from peers that she would not fit in the College community. Indeed, according to Raza Kolb, the College is hostile to faculty of color in many ways that are at first easy to miss. “In addition to issues of culture and community, the college has deep problems of discrimination and bias in many places that are hard to see at first – benefits, disciplinary and grievance procedures, sexual misconduct and harassment policies and protocols, evaluation and promotion, support for research and special projects, retention and merit recognition.”

Raza Kolb also pushed back against narratives for her departure that are centered around the geography of the Berkshires. “It’s easy to tell ourselves a routine story about why faculty of color leave,” she said. “It often comes down to location. I’m not stepping away from my position because I’m uncomfortable in Western Massachusetts. I’m reevaluating my relationship to the institution because I haven’t been treated fairly here, or seen through my pre-tenure years in a reasonable, above board way.”

During my time at Williams, I took classes with Raza Kolb, along with Rhie, who was mentioned in Kent’s list of great diverse professors. Both Anjuli and Bernie taught my absolute favorite courses at Williams, English courses which really changed the way I see literature and its role in the world. Both engage substantially with texts of all kinds–including many, many texts by white, canonical authors. Bernie’s area of scholarship is largely on Wittgenstein; Raza Kolb deals just as much with colonial literature (literature by those who colonized–think Kipling and Conrad) as with post-colonial (literature by the formerly-colonized). They deal with these texts with care and intense scholarly interest; what makes these classes so interesting, and so valuable to students, is that the texts by white canonical authors are not the only texts they treat as such. Rather, they recognize, and embrace, the fact that English literature comes from many non-white, non-canonical authors, and bring those texts as intensely into the literary conversation. That’s what made those courses so fantastic for me, and the fact that great professors like Raza Kolb are disappearing from the college seems like such a shame to me.

Finally, in yesterday’s post on the topic of the boycott, DDF wrote:

I believe that EphBlog, although unmentioned in the article, is fundamentally responsible for this turning into a national story. A comment from a longtime reader about the boycott appears on November 1. This led to blog posts from John Drew and Jerry Coyne on November 3. This led to right wing coverage at places like Breitbart and the College Fix yesterday. (I could be wrong about the causative chain. Perhaps the same person who tipped us also tipped Coyne and others.) How long before this story breaks into the New York Times?

Do we really take ourselves that seriously? Coverage by right-wing blogs desperate for any sort of story that fits their views of college students as snowflake liberals doesn’t necessarily make this a national story, and no matter how frequently EphBlog wants to declare every little controversy at Williams to be fundamental in the national collegiate political landscape, I really doubt Williams’ small-scale petitions and open letters quite warrant New York Times coverage.

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Paying College Council?

A recent article by the Williams Record discusses a recent town hall-style meeting discussing the future of the College Council:

College Council (CC) held a town hall in the Dodd House dining room on the evening of Oct. 22 as part of an internal review in the wake of a contentious spring semester. Last spring, CC faced criticism for its hesitance to fund Black Previews, its decision not to recognize the Williams Initiative for Israel and its low-engagement election in which Papa Smurf was elected as a representative for the Class of 2021. The organization also faced a one-semester drop in approval from 22 percent to 7 percent, according to a May 2019 Record survey.

According to the article, a number of proposals were discussed, including complete disbandment of the Council and allocation of its funding functions to the Office of Student Life.  I thought one of the more interesting ideas was to pay College Council members:

As an alternative to greater administrative power, several students suggested compensating CC or Financial Committee members. “There’s a lot of unpaid student labor on campus,” Morgan Whaley ’20 said. “For the administration to see institutions like CC or JAs [Junior Advisors] or housing as such integral parts of the tradition of this college, but then also not [care] about the students who actually run those, I think is problematic.”

I don’t agree that College Council members should be paid because they are providing “unpaid labor” to College.  In many areas of life, people volunteer their time for the betterment of their communities, both private organizations and public commissions.  Different people volunteer for all kinds of reasons:  wanting to help others, wanting to have influence on policy or programs, wanting to network in hopes of getting benefits down the road, wanting to build a resume, etc.  College is a good time for members of the community to get into the habit of making these judgments about what is a good use of their time.  In the case of College Council, it appears as though there is little interest in its work in the student body as a whole.  This should allow those who are interested in influencing how it works the opportunity to get involved and have a real say in what happens.

What do you think?  Is the College taking advantage of students by not paying them?  Or are the non-monetary rewards sufficient in your view?

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“Hot Takes” in the Williams Record Making a Splash on Campus

Two weeks ago, the Record released a pseudo-satirical opinion piece, a bullet point list of what are being called “Hot takes from a white guy with an annoying mix of confidence and insecurity” written by Nate Munson-Palomba ’21. The list, touching on a wide range of Williams social issues, has caused quite a stir to say the least, because it isn’t perfectly clear which points are jokes and which are serious opinions of the author. Conversations about the piece have gone around on Facebook, Instagram, and in dining halls across Williams. The full list can be seen below:

● The athlete-nonner divide is driven by nonners (insecurity).

● “The Williams Swivel” says the most about Williams social life.

● Attractive white female athletes run this school.

● White guys should try to wear clothes when they’re going out that aren’t checkered button-downs, basketball jerseys or Hawaiian shirts.

● Endurance athletes are essentially nonners.

● The lack of bars has made social life better and more inclusive.

● CC will be the comeback story of 2022.

● Comedy is the clout of nonners.

● 66 is underrated.

● About half of Williams’ problems are intractable because of geography.

● You haven’t seen Williams until you’ve been exercising in Lower Lasell when the entire football team is there.

● The phantoms are having more fun a ton of the time.

● A refrigerator door could be a housing coordinator.

● Class defines Williams.

● Adams Falk’s I am Williams poster that says, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you” actually defines Williams.

● If you’re doing all your reading, most Div. II majors are as hard as Div. III; the only thing is almost nobody is doing that.

● OSL is the shadow government of Williams.

● The only enemy that will unite humanity is non-human.

● Rugby is the last frat.

● Male helmet sport athletes are smarter than everyone else thinks they are and less attractive than they think they are.

● One of the worst social places to be at Williams is a short, unattractive guy who likes sports but isn’t good at them.

● Juul culture is the most communitarian Williams gets.

● The only true protest act of Williams is to unenroll.

● There’s no better way to torpedo your social clout at Williams than to write a sendy op-ed.

The following week, the Record included a second list written in response, called “Confessions from a Black Lesbian with a powerful mix of Confidence and Security” written by Rachel Porter ’21. It is a roughly line-by-line response to the points made in the earlier article:

● The athlete-nonner divide is driven by athletes who like to shout at parties something along the lines of, “If you aren’t on one of these three sports teams, or I can’t sexually objectify you because of my toxic masculinity and my inability to see women as people, then get out of this space that was formerly used as a social meeting place for a variety of people because I am insecure, sexist and enjoy bigotry.”

● “The Williams Swivel” isn’t limited to Williams. It’s called having situational awareness.

● Women/Femme-identifying people of color do the most for this miserable school and look absolutely fierce while doing so. Whether or not they fit the confining and limiting criteria of “attractive” is irrelevant to me. Because I don’t value people solely based on their physical appearance.

● Haouxsey is overrated.

● Sometimes you have to wear your worst clothes to parties when there’s a good chance of mysterious filth being spilled on you at any moment.

● My brief foray into syndicated athleticism has led me to believe that running is one of the most intellectually and physically challenging sports to participate in. You know, because it actually requires concentration and tenacity. Weird.

● The lack of bars in this town is the reason why there is a dispensary down the street. Trends follow the money.

● The College’s many bureaucratic groups fight over the definition of inclusion every day. Because apparently not being complicit in structures of oppression isn’t an easy task.

● The Williams Record will be the comeback story of never.

● Shoutout to College Council for giving us the take the money and run option.

● Houcksey is overrated.

● The Williams Record is officially the Pastiche of Williams. (If you know, you know).

● Try to lock me up for being funny. I’ll film you. You better Mirandize me first.

● Black people are underrated. Period.

● We go to school in the middle of some mountains. Ahem.

● You haven’t seen Williams until it’s 3 a.m. at “X dorm close to Mission” and “INSERT BLANK HERE” team is ready to blast Mo Bamba and scream the N-word until they get tired (they don’t really emphasize cardio at this school).

● The world and even sad little Williams can be a fun place when you have friends that you aren’t forced to hang out with. There are many people at this college that value the happiness and the pleasure of building platonic relationships that aren’t solely transactional or based on doing some particular thing. Crazy right?

● Houckxsoeuy is overrated.

● But can a refrigerator door provide emotional and even physical labor to adult children? I don’t think so.

● The definition of inclusion might also lead you to a definition of intersectionality. Take note.

● There are a lot of things that define Williams. That’s why they have those cute little posters in Schow.

● The only thing almost no one is talking about is which major is harder than the other. Because there’s a good chance they’re doing their work.

● Hockeysee is overrated.

● The gay agenda is the shadow government of Williams.

● I respect people who believe in aliens. Takes a lot of courage to admit that.

● How do you quantify being attractive, and how do you quantify being smart? Can you be both, or is it one or the other? Will I get the answers on reddit?

● One of the worst social places to be at Williams is a tall “athletic” male that is decent at sports but can’t pursue them after college because he’s not actually that good. Road ends here pal (insecurity).

● Sometimes people read books to learn how to make the world a better place.

● Sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to read as many books as they want and they still make the world a better place.

● Hiouuxseauy is overrated.

● So is poorly disguised satire that merely acts as a way for certain people to say the strangely nefarious, coded thoughts in their head they are too afraid to say out loud. Yes it’s okay to not know everything, but if you can read and you have access to the internet, you should know that there is a powerful tool called an internet search engine. Yes, you can use it to find the definition of satire AND what constitutes as offensive.

● Yes, people deserve to have their own opinion, but know some people cannot be silenced when attempting to express theirs (security). Trivializing serious matters related to race, gender, class and sexuality can result in some pushback. Know that.

Both lists provide an interesting window into the kinds of discussions taking place at Williams College in 2019.

Alumni of all ages, how many of these “hot takes” were true in your days at Williams? If at all, to what degree have things changed?

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Williams College Cemetery

Today is Halloween, so a post about a graveyard seems to be in order (h/t EphProf!).

Interesting article in this week’s Record on the College Cemetery, which is located just outside Mission Park.  I had no idea about this particular perk offered to some College faculty and staff:

“Guess where I’m going to be buried,” said Professor of Philosophy Joe Cruz ’91 to his cognitive science class as the last few students filed into the classroom. “The cemetery next to Mission.”

Cruz is one of dozens of current faculty members who will be buried in the campus cemetery, an opportunity afforded to select members of the College community including, according to the faculty handbook, “the immediate lineal descendants of those currently interred there, trustees, the president, the treasurer, the college librarian, senior staff, and those with emeritus or retired status in any of the above categories; tenured faculty and faculty emeriti; and the spouses or domestic partners and unmarried children of all the above.”

I especially liked this quote from Prof. Gene Bell-Villada, who noted that, with respect to the cemetary perk, ““There’s a kind of a joke that goes around the faculty, we call it the final perk.”

The rugby team used to hold beer practice in what we termed “the graveyard” during my freshman and sophomore years.  Eventually, the College chased us out, sending us down past the football practice fields.  In hindsight, this was clearly the correct move, so I was a little surprised by this quote from the article:

For students, who are neither eligible for burial in the cemetery nor frequently faced with the question of where they will be buried, the cemetery often serves as a hangout spot after dark. Regina Fink ’22 planned a 20th birthday celebration in the cemetery, calling it “a funeral for my teenage years.”

Lydia Duan ’21, who is a junior advisor, said she might think twice about being buried there herself knowing what students get up to in the cemetery. “If I were a tenured professor, I would not want to be buried there because I wouldn’t want stoned frosh dancing over my dead body.”

The article also includes interesting discussions on the significance of allowing tenured faculty to be buried there.  I recommend reading the entire article.

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Republican/Conservative/Libertarian Professors at Williams

A New York Times op-ed two years ago:

Faculty members in New England are far more liberal than their counterparts anywhere else in the nation, even controlling for discipline and school type. In 1989, the number of liberals compared with conservatives on college campuses was about 2 to 1 nationwide; that figure was almost 5 to 1 for New England schools. By 2014, the national figure was 6 to 1; for those teaching in New England, the figure was 28 to 1.

I cannot say for certain why New England is so far to the left. But what I can say, based on the evidence, is that if you are looking for an ideologically balanced education, don’t put New England at the top of your list.

Who are the Republican/Conservative/Libertarian professors at Williams? The Record had an excellent article on that topic last week:

Several professors at the College, however, openly profess conservative views. Their presences in Williamstown have the potential to elucidate political dynamics at the College that may be invisible to the student body’s liberal majority.

Four professors agreed to go on the record for this article: Professor of Mathematics Steven Miller; Professor of Art Michael Lewis; Professor of Political Science Darel Paul; and Visiting Professor of American Foreign Policy Chris Gibson, who will depart the College and begin teaching at Siena College, his alma mater, at the end of the academic year.

While they all fit under the umbrella term of “conservative,” these professors hold a range of beliefs.

Read the rest for an intelligent and nuanced discussion.

According to campus gossip (and EphBlog reporting), the basic zoology of Republican/Conservative/Libertarian professors at Williams is as follows:

Republicans: Steven Miller and Michael Lewis. Lewis is perhaps the most famous “conservative” professor at Williams, known for his writing at the Wall Street Journal, Commentary and other outlets. He was a strong critic of Falk’s decision to ban Derbyshire. Are there any other faculty members that are registered Republicans? Tell us in the comments!

Libertarians: Kris Kirby and Fred Strauch. The Record ought to seek them out for a second article.

Curmudgeons: This is the category of professors who are not registered Republicans and almost certainly did not vote for Trump, but who care about ideological diversity and/or are conservative (or at least anti-leftist) in the context of the Williams faculty. James McAllister, Darel Paul and Luana Maroja come to mind. Others?

Former faculty of a similar persuasion include: Robert Jackall, George Marcus, Chris Gibson and Jane Swift. (I realize that Gibson has not left yet, but visitors shouldn’t even be part of this conversation. They are at Williams for too short a time to matter.

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Integrative Wellbeing Services: Expanding and Diversifying

The Record published a two-part series on Integrative Wellbeing Services, Williams’ counseling/mental health services program. Given that this is one of my favorite Williams-related topics, I’m excited to pick out a few interesting bits. Article 1, and Article 2.

On the name and philosophy:

PCS [Psychological Counseling Services] is now known as Integrative Wellbeing Services, a change that [Wendy] Adam [the director of IWS] says represents a substantive shift in the College’s philosophy toward mental health. The therapists at the time were already well-prepared to treat mental illness, according to Adam, so her approach centered around broadening the range of services to include options aimed at fostering students’ general wellbeing in addition to providing clinical psychological services.

To me, this has some pretty clear upsides, but the downsides should certainly be acknowledged; for me, those downsides were pretty clear as a student.

The benefits, of course, are making therapy/counseling more accessible to all students and de-pathologizing therapy. Therapy can benefit everyone, and belief that you have to have a mental illness to seek therapy is a detriment. Says Adam:

“In my private practice, if someone came to see me, I had to justify their appointment to their insurance company using a diagnosis,” she said. “One of the things I love about this job is that you don’t have to have a serious diagnosis to work with us. I don’t have to worry that, if you’re having a hard time but you don’t meet all the criteria for depression, I’d have to stop seeing you after a certain time even if it would have been more effective for you to stay longer.”

“We’ve got tons of groups and offerings, where we want to meet students where they’re at,” Adam said. “That’s why there are so many ways of inviting students in. We don’t want that old story of ‘You have to be mentally ill to see a therapist’ to get in anybody’s way.”

The downside—which I experienced—is that, if you do have a genuine mental illness and need specific treatment for a mental illness, Adam’s statement that the school was “already well-prepared to treat mental illness” might have felt like a pivot away from that treatment. “Broadening the range of services” doesn’t have to mean decreasing the efficacy of mental health treatment, of course; in practice, however, given that IWS is training the new clinicians (and students in the two-year training program make up a large amount of the staff, after all), the likelihood that you’ll start therapy and see someone who’s been trained in more of a “holistic” way than a “mental-illness-focused” way is pretty high.

The effect of that can be seen from quotes in the second article:

“Charlotte Jones ’22 started seeing a clinician at IWS last year while continuing to regularly check in remotely with the therapist she has worked with for several years at home. She hoped to use the IWS sessions to process recent traumatic life events, but both of the therapists she was paired with took approaches that she found unhelpful.

“At times, it felt as though they were babying me,” she said. “It could be very demeaning… Maybe they would have been fine for a smaller issue, but for me, they were not ready to handle what I had.”

She said that she does not plan to try again at IWS – “Two times was hard enough,” she said – though she has found the crisis call line helpful for instances when she could not get in touch with her therapist from home.”

The article, and clinicians during therapy, make clear that switching therapists is always a possibility and is encouraged to find the right fit for you. But two times is hard enough! It can be really hard to keep divulging your trauma over and over, trying to find the therapist who’s most helpful in processing it.

The articles also discuss some programs that are new this year at IWS. We talked about those earlier here on EphBlog with a post by DDF (http://ephblog.com/2019/09/12/welcome-and-new-year-updates/),  namely, new therapy options through the online platform TalkSpace, and new non-emergency transport options including twice-daily shuttles to get prescriptions from Rite Aid. At the time he wondered if these were the best uses of Williams’ money, or if we should “prioritize matching financial aid packages from places like Harvard first.”

My comments at the time were responding to this thought specifically, but are relevant to my general defenses of spending on IWS more generally:

Sure, in terms of optics of making Williams more appealing to prospective students, spending on matching financial aid packages from places like Harvard might be better. But I believe this is spending on making Williams actually more competitive with placed like Harvard in terms of actual student experience. In Cambridge there are places within walking distance, or using public transit options, where you can get things like x-rays and blood tests on the school’s insurance. In Williamstown, if you don’t have a car, the one bus most likely doesn’t go where you need it to, to get those medical services done…so you’re absolutely reliant on the medical transport system run by the college, which helps bridge the gap of accessing medical services resulting from Williams’s location.

As for the twice-daily pharmacy runs…I am incredibly jealous. I wasted so much time, up to my very last week at Williams, finding solutions to what should be the very simple issue of picking up prescriptions at Rite Aid. There’s prescription delivery to the health center, but the health center is open fewer hours than Rite Aid is; moreover, prescription restrictions exist. I remember one particular situation where I was prescribed a new medication that was restricted in such a way that I had to pick it up in X days, and they would not let me have it delivered; I had to pick it up in person. So I walked in single-digit weather to Rite Aid, taking a couple of freezing hours during a particularly busy week. Not a life-threatening situation, no, but one that, after a few times, definitely found me wishing I went to a school that wasn’t so darn remote.

Is this the sort of thing that prospective students will think about when debating Harvard and Williams? No, of course not, so if that’s your metric then sure, this is a waste of money. But it’s absolutely something that helps bring quality of life up to par with places like Harvard, and for that I see it as immensely valuable.

At what point do improvements to IWS become a selling point for the college? As knowledge and perception about mental health shift, I’m hopeful that a strong offering of counseling services becomes much more of a plus. And, as the Record article highlights, we really are fairly top-of-class:

“According to Klass and Adam, the ratio of students to therapists across higher education nationally — including both colleges and universities — is around 900:1, while the College’s peer institutions tend to be closer to 400:1. In contrast, the current ratio at the College is slightly lower than 145 students per therapist.

Last year, there was no waitlist for accessing therapy through IWS.

Meanwhile, the total number of scheduled psychotherapy session hours has grown by 260 percent over the last decade. That increase is due in part to the fact that students can schedule as many visits to IWS as they need. “Unlike other colleges and universities, we don’t cap our sessions,” Grinnell said. “I love that about Williams. We can really spend time building relationships with our student population. Therapy may not always feel linear — it might take some time to feel like consistent progress is being made.”

This is all really good, important stuff.

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Dynamics of Romance

Victoria Michalska ’22 writes in the Record:

But for those looking for something more, it’s an interesting dynamic. You could find yourself a random almost-stranger, and go to the dorm of whoever lives closer, but that isn’t necessarily for everybody. The repetition of seeing specific people at these parties means that some bond will start to develop between you two, ambiguous as to whether it’s friendship or something else, and the decision to pursue more begins to linger in the air more powerfully with every encounter. That development is as close as one could get to romance on Hoxsey, I think: a moment of eye contact across the room and the question of whether or not they’ll walk over and talk to you.

EphBlog is here to solve Michalska’s problem:

1) Pick 5 Williams men you would like to go out with on a date. You are, obviously, not picking a husband at this stage, but you are selecting likely candidates. Because men are shallow creatures, select men that are about as handsome as you are pretty. If you are average, then select an average man. Even better, select a man at the 25th percentile of attractiveness. If you end up married, he will spend the rest of his life marveling at the beauty of the woman in his bed each morning and vowing to do his best not to screw up his good fortune.

2) Pick a friend to be the matchmaker. Many of your friends would jump at the chance. You need someone social, someone not afraid to approach a (possible) stranger on your behalf.

3) Have your friend approach a candidate and let him know that, if he asked you out on a dinner date, you would say, “Yes.” Assuming you have picked wisely, he will be excited! There are few things a boy likes more than knowing a girl is interested in him. And the reason he hasn’t asked you out before was, most likely, that he was afraid you would say, “No.” There is nothing a boy fears more than rejection. Since he knows ahead of time what your answer will be, you can be (mostly) certain that he will ask you out. If you want to avoid the embarrassment of rejection yourself, just allow your friend the discretion to approach the men in the order she sees fit. Then she won’t even need to tell you if candidates 1 and 2 turned down this opportunity.

Read the whole thing for context.

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The Williams Record: “Profiles of Presidents Past”

Profiles of Presidents Past: Adam Falk

The Record, in a recent issue, has written a profile of former Williams president Adam Falk. The article is written interview-style, and it touches on issues ranging from expensive landscaping projects to free speech controversies.

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Ephs Can Choose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original version published in the Record in 2008.

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The Majority of the Record’s Editorial Board

The Record‘s editorial from this Wednesday, September 18 (“Calling for more transparency, accountability in discipline for sexual assault”) concludes with the following note:

The editorial represents the opinion of the majority of the Record’s editorial board. 

This immediately made me wonder: was this not a unanimously endorsed editorial by the Record’s board?

I hadn’t remembered seeing this message at the end of previous Record editorials; the most recent from last year don’t seem to have it. So, its inclusion here makes it seem like this was something they particularly had to make clear on this editorial–potentially because of a minority disagreement on the board.

Of course, it’s possible that this is just a new policy for the Record, and that there has been notable disagreement from the board on editorials before, simply without the disclaimer at the end. Perhaps they’ve decided that this is a statement they’ll include on all future editorials, to cover all their bases. We’ll see in coming editorials this year, I suppose.

But, assuming the more interesting case that there was a minority disagreement with the editorial. What did they disagree about?

The essential message of the editorial (as distilled by the title) is that there should be “transparency” and “accountability” with cases of sexual assault, which seem like pretty agreeable and non-offensive stances to take on sexual assault, just because they don’t really say anything. Looking more specifically, the “transparency” they cite seems to deal with release of public information:

First, we take issue with the College’s lack of public information regarding the standards for suspension or expulsion. If a student faces a semester-long suspension for sexual assault, the community currently has no way of knowing why. We as students do not even know if the College’s standards for penalties differ from year to year or from case to case. Nor does information exist as to whether disciplinary sanctions differ for cases of stalking, relationship abuse or sexual harassment as compared to sexual assault. This lack of transparency is worrying in its own right, but the College’s opacity could also intimidate and discourage survivors from reporting and pursuing cases. In the future, a rubric must clearly set out the severity of offense that merits each sanction.

I haven’t thought about this much and don’t know how much is “known” about the college’s handling of these cases. What did people know about the Bae case, how it was handled, and how such a case would be handled today? Perhaps that’s the point that the editorial is making, but my rudimentary understanding is that there are, at least, procedures that have to be followed when it comes to sexual assault cases. The actual punishment is less clear to me.

As for “accountability,” their statement is clear:

Rather, the College should establish expulsion as the presumptive, though not mandatory, punishment for students who are found responsible for sexual assault.

First, they cite statistics and studies detailing how many sexual assaults are repeated offenses, implying that the college has to be sure to expel sexual offenders the first time so that there can’t be a second time. Second, to help with students’ “perceived security,” since students will potentially feel unsafe on a campus with students who might be rapists.

This seems to be the most likely site of conflict that might have caused disagreement in the board. This hard-line stance would have the potential to harshly punish potentially innocent students. The board hedges their stance on this, with the following statement:

We recognize that increased penalties for sexual misconduct necessitate serious contemplation of the evidentiary standards that are required for a finding of responsibility, and the College must work to ensure a fair process for both parties with no presumption of guilt for the accused. Either sufficient evidence exists for a finding of responsibility or it does not, however, and we maintain that punishments short of expulsion can hardly ever be appropriate when such evidence is found.

In 2014, the college “found Bae responsible for misconduct and imposed a two-year suspension.” If this is the case, the board majority is saying, explusion should always be the next step.

What do people who disagree believe the next step should be, instead?

I understand why the board doesn’t publish a “minority opinion” when the editorial board is divided; it lessens the power of the editorial as a strong voice stating an opinion and cutting through to the campus. Nevertheless, it’d be great if editorial board members who disagreed would pen individual opinions articles (not under the “Editorial” mandate”) explaining their dissent.

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Advice for EphBlog Authors

Do you want to write for EphBlog? You would be welcome!

E-mail daviddudleyfield@gmail.com (or, if you know it, my personal e-mail) with two pieces of information: the email you want to use (must work but does not need to be the email you are writing me from) and your preferred login id (which can not have spaces nor punctuation marks).

Note that the login id is visible on the site because that is how WordPress organizes all your posts. Mine is “ddf” and you can see all my posts here. So, if you want to post anonymously, don’t choose a login which identifies you.

WordPress will send a temporary password to that e-mail address along with a link to the login location, which is here and is also available at the bottom of the right-hand column, below Recent Comments. Login, change your password and create your “Display Name.” This is what will show up under your posts. Mine is “David Dudley Field ’24.” If you don’t do this, your login id will be displayed.

You are also welcome to preserve your anonymity even with me. (In fact, you can do this even if we know each other and/or you have written for EphBlog before.) Just follow the above instructions from an anonymous e-mail account. That way, even I won’t know your name, which is fine by me.

Here is some advice about where to find topics which fall under the rubric of All Things Eph.

1) The are dozens of Record articles which we fail to cover. A link to an article, along with a quotation, and perhaps some questions or comments, is a great post. Our coverage of editorials and op-eds over the last year has been especially weak.

2) The Record archives are now hosted by the College. Just type in a word or phrase in the search box. Lots of great stuff from history to post about!

3) Follow Williams College or Williams Athletics or various Williams professors on Twitter and other social media. Lots of good material almost everyday.

4) Posts about current events are welcome, but you must take the trouble to find an Eph connection. “All Things Eph” includes, for example, every tweet or public statement by prominent Ephs like Senator Chris Murphy ’96, Erin Burnett ’98 and Mika Brzezinski ’89. Post about, say, the Presidential election race if you like, but you have to “hang” your post on a comment by an Eph.

5) Post about past EphBlog topics. We now have 16+ years of archives to mine. There is a lot of good stuff there! And note that, each year, a big chunk of our readership turns over as 500 Ephs graduate and 500 first years (and their parents) arrive. Indeed, my own posting is more and more a collection of annual essays, improved over time and modeled on Professor Whit Stoddard’s ’35 legendary September lecture to first years titled “A Sense of Where You Are.”

6) Sign up for Google Alerts or a similar service. I use “Williams College” as my alert phrase. This gives me a once-a-day e-mail with virtually every mention of Williams in the press. Very handy!

Other items:

1) You are free to manage the comments in your own posts as you see fit. Authors “own” the comment threads which follow their posts and can do whatever they like there. Options include:

a) No management! You are a busy person and it is not your job to monitor EphBlog comments. This is what I do 99% of the time.

b) No (more) comments. Either at the start of the post or after the discussion has come off the rails, you can uncheck the “Allow comments” box. This does not affect comments that have already been made. It just prevents more comments.

c) Hit the “Trash” button. This removes a comment from your post and places it in the Trash. We occasionally post all the Trash comments so that folks can see what was removed.

d) Edit in place. I often just put “Deleted. — DDF” so that people can see that there was a comment (and who wrote it) and that I have deleted it. One could also put a reason, but life is short and I am usually too busy to explain myself to trolls.

2) Instead of leaving a long comment on one of my posts, I encourage you to create a new post with that comment and a link to my post. First, people don’t read the comments that much, so you wonderful prose is more likely to be seen in a new post. Second, it often helps the quality of the discussion to re-start it elsewhere.

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No Barbeque for You

Williams College graduate, Eliza Klein ’19, has been called out by Canary Mission who claims she “…has defended terrorists, supported a violent agitator and promoted the #returnthebirthright campaign calling on American Jews to boycott the Birthright Jewish heritage tour.” In a recent Tweet, Canary Mission criticizes her for a 2017 incident in which they say Klein harassed Jewish students who hosted a kosher barbeque,

On May 3, 2017, Klein wrote in the Williams college student newspaper: “By disrupting the barbeque, by writing this op-ed and by speaking out against the occupation of Palestine, we hope to destabilize the normalcy and legitimacy of supporting Israel.”

Readers of Ephblog may recognize Eliza as the student leader of Students for Justice in Palestine a recognized student organization with the faculty/staff advisor Shanti Singham, a Professor of History and Africana Studies, Emerita.

As a student at Williams, Eliza opposed efforts to bring the Chicago Principles to campus.

She also supported the efforts of the College Council to bar the Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) from becoming a recognized student organization. This decision sparked a strong rebuke from president Maud Mandel and a successful complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Currently, Williams College is being held accountable by the federal government so that it does a better job of protecting WIFI and following Title IV law and regulations.

By all accounts, Eliza was rewarded for her behavior as a student at Williams College. She is the 2019 winner of the Davis Center’s Senior Social Justice Advocate Award.

John C. Drew, Ph.D., is a former Williams College professor. He received the William Anderson Award from the American Political Science Association for the best doctoral dissertation in the nation in his field in 1989. He contributes to American Thinker, Breitbart, Campus Reform, The College Fix, and WorldNetDaily. 

 

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Short Leash

U.S. Department of Education to avoid an investigation into the manner in which the College council rejected a new pro-Israel group, Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI), in April 2019. JNS reports:

“This Agreement contains no findings of fact, does not constitute an admission of liability on the part of the College, and does not represent a determination by OCR that the college has violated Title VI or its implementing regulations or otherwise engaged in any discriminatory conduct,” stated the agreement, obtained by JNS.

The Massachusetts school pledged that WIFI will be “afforded the same rights and privileges as registered student groups approved by the College Council,” and that it will treat the student organization “in a nondiscriminatory manner” in that the student government evaluates “WIFI requests for and provide financial assistance and other benefits” as such.

The school must submit documentation to demonstrate that it is complying with the “same rights and privileges” clause by Nov. 1, and subsequently do so in 2020 by Feb. 1, June 1 and Nov. 1.

By June 1, 2020, Williams must submit documentation showing that it is complying with the clause that the student government evaluates WIFI financial assistance and other requests in a nondiscriminatory manner.

Reviewing what we know of the agreement that Maud signed, it appears to me that the school was in no hurry to dispute the complaint that it had violated Title VI law and that it was okay living under a temporary period of intensive federal scrutiny in order to bring this matter to a close. Will this be enough to protect WIFI students? It seems unlikely that additional federal accountability will be enough to protect the pro-Israel students who have been the targets of on campus hostility at least as far back as April 2017.

All in all, it will be an entertaining spectacle. I’m looking forward to seeing how Maud will bring the aggressively anti-WIFI College Council into compliance with the new federal accountability measures. Where’s my lawn chair and my kosher barbeque?

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Bullet Dodged

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – According to a report in the Jewish Journal, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has decided that the school did not violate Title IV when the College Council denied recognized student organization status to WIFI. Nevertheless, the OCR has created a number of stipulations which the college will need to follow moving forward according to Williams College Director of Media Relations Greg Shook.

As far as I can tell, the new stipulations will reduce the power and independence of the College Council. In particular,

“Williams will ensure that College Council, first, affords WIFI the same rights and privileges as any other Council-approved RSO; and, second, evaluates WIFI’s future requests for financial assistance and other benefits fairly, and allocates resources in a nondiscriminatory manner,” Shook said. “OCR provided helpful advice to develop this resolution and plan, and we’re grateful for their partnership.”

The Jewish Journal reports a statement from StandWithUs Legal Department Director Yael Lerman who said, “StandWithUs thanks the Office of Civil Rights for taking the time to investigate the Williams College matter and take allegations of anti-Semitism seriously. We appreciate that OCR is looking into protecting Jewish students facing discrimination. We hope that this will be a deterrent to those looking to spread hatred and misinformation against Jews and pro-Israel students.”

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Uncomfortable Wearing

Bachelorette – 2019 contestant Dylan Barbour ’16 has stirred up social media due to his leverage of a salmon suit jacket. Alert viewers have noticed that four of the men competing for the lovely Hannah Brown’s heart have worn what appears to be the same pinkish jacket.

Twitter is ablaze with comments about the blazer. So far Jed Wyatt, Tyler Cameron, Dylan Barbour ’16, and Connor Saeli have been spotted wearing the now famous salmon colored jacket. Unfortunately, a female Twitter user took a cheap shot at the fellows and teased them for being members of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Salmon Jacket.”

Dylan, 24, took a B.A. in English from Williams and minored in leadership studies. He was on the football and track team. Before becoming a tech entrepreneur, Dylan was an associate at Morgan Stanley. So far, we have no evidence if Dylan is a regular reader of Ephblog.

Hannah, 24, attended the relatively easy to enter University of Alabama where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in communications. Given the gap between their educational credentials, they may not have much to talk about. Still, Hannah did go on to become Miss Alabama USA in 2018. By all accounts, she used “…this platform to help others.” So there’s that.

 

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Melania’s Replacement

Thanks to O, the Oprah magazine, we can learn more about Amy Sanders O’Rourke, ’03. As you may know, she is the wife of the increasingly less popular presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. Amy was a psychology major at Williams where she also took a minor in Spanish.

Amy comes from an exceedingly wealthy family but, most likely, she isn’t really an heiress to a billionaire. Amy’s father, real estate magnate William Sanders, sold one of his companies to General Electric for $5.4 billion in 2002. Forbes estimates his net worth at about $500 million. So he is a half-billionaire. Nevertheless, Amy has a trust fund that totals about $5 million.

On their first date, Beto took Amy to Mexico. They visited the famous Kentucky Club Bar in Juarez, Mexico which, in legend at least, is the birthplace of the margarita. After visiting the bar, they were stopped by a camera crew who asked the couple to kiss. Beto, however, got out of the situation by saying that he and Amy were siblings. Ten months later, they married. They have three kids: Ulysses, 12, Molly, 10, and eight-year-old Henry. In the Christmas card picture above, Molly is featured wearing a Williams College shirt.

 

 

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Both Sides Now

The Berkshire Eagle has published an opinion piece by Joseph Moore ’20, one of the students who led the effort to deny WIFI equal status as a recognized student organization (RSO). He is a comparative literature major from Stroudsburg, PN.

Joseph Moore: It wasn’t WIFI that was denied free speech

The gist of his article is that anti-WIFI activists were unquestionably right in seeking to discriminate against WIFI because it was supporting “literal crimes against humanity.”

Moreover, the real problem now has nothing to do with the fact that the school is in danger of losing its federal funding. For Joseph, the real problem is how the nation-wide, nearly unanimous blow back from center-left news outlets and right-wingers has made anti-WIFI activists reticent to promote further discrimination against WIFI.

What can I say? Mission accomplished!

 

 

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Beyond the Purple Rubble

There is a lot of media attention focused on the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation of Williams College. Many of the articles are based on the original reporting by The College Fix. Here’s some of the most prominent headlines.

Geller Report: Williams College under federal investigation for discriminating against Jewish students

Newsweek: WILLIAMS COLLEGE INVESTIGATED FOR ALLEGED CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION AFTER STUDENTS VOTE AGAINST PRO-ISRAEL GROUP

Jewish News Syndicate: US Department of Education studying Williams College for possible discrimination

The Jerusalem Post: AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE WILLIAMS COLLEGE FOR REJECTION OF PRO-ISRAEL GROUP

Breitbart: Williams College Faces Federal Investigation for Discrimination Against Pro-Israel Student Group

The most interesting comments from the Geller Report are shown after the break.

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Sins of the Students

Jenni Fink at Newsweek has published an article on how the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) initiated an investigation into Williams College after a law professor alerted them to how the College Council discriminated against pro-Israel students.

NEWSWEEK: WILLIAMS COLLEGE INVESTIGATED FOR ALLEGED CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION AFTER STUDENTS VOTE AGAINST PRO-ISRAEL GROUP

Fink’s story breaks some new ground. First, it appears that this issue is occurring elsewhere too. In April 2019, pro-Israel students hit New York University with a complaint to OCR claiming that school violated Title VI too.

Second, Fink reports on the motivations behind the report. “In my experience,” said David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University, “Jewish professionals on campus aren’t sufficiently assertive in such matters, and students have lots of others things on their plate, so I figured that if I didn’t do something, no one would.” Bernstein seems to get the on-campus climate. His observation is consistent with the school’s tepid initial response, seemingly endorsed by Rabbi Wax, that WIFI would enjoy separate and almost equal rights. Bernstein calls the situation “…a pretty open-and-shut case of discrimination.”

Third, Fink’s article describes the procedures involved.  “If OCR finds the organization failed to comply with the law, the first step is to negotiate a voluntary resolution agreement, which outlines specific remedial actions,” she writes. “In the event an organization rejects a resolution agreement, federal financial assistance can be withheld or the case can be referred to the Department of Justice.”

Fourth, Bernstein seems pretty insistent that Williams College acknowledge the gravity of the situation.

Bernstein credited Williams College with taking steps to mitigate the situation, but said it wasn’t solely an issue of poor procedures. He said it went past a “misgovernance problem” and was a problem of anti-Semitism, which required the college’s acknowledgment to alleviate.

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Two Track Attack

Roz Rothstein, the CEO and Co-Founder, StandWithUs sent Maud Mandel a letter dated May 30, 2019 complaining about the school’s two track system for approving student organizations. In Rothstein’s view, the school needs to end the role of the College Council in making these decisions. Without this change of policy the school will be unable to avoid the sort of discrimination which has provoked an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights into Williams’ conduct. Rothstein writes:

We therefore recommend that you take this opportunity to clarify the College’s policy in granting RSO recognition and formally adopt the policy on the Student Life website as the College’s official formal policy. In doing so, you will reduce the likelihood of similar bigotry and discrimination from reoccurring on your campus. Additionally, you will send a clear message to your student leaders that abuse of their power will not be tolerated and will be met with consequences.

So far, it appears that the administration has rejected Rothstein’s recommendation. This at least is what The College Fix is reporting regarding its conversation with Rothstein. The full letter is below the break.
Williams College refuses to change process that led to rejection of pro-Israel group

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Federal Case

According to a report by The College Fix, the U.S. Department of Education is now investigating Williams College over charges it violated anti-discrimination law when the College Council refused to approve WIFI, a pro-Israel student group. The complaint against the college was filed by David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University, on May 2, 2019.

Williams College under federal investigation for discriminating against Jewish students

The full text of Bernstein’s complaint appears after the break. As The College Fix reports:

The College Council voted to deny WIFI recognition as an official student organization during a secretive and controversial meeting April 23.

It was not livestreamed as usual, and speakers were not identified by name in the meeting minutes. An April 9 meeting that was livestreamed had drawn national attention because black student activists went on a profanity-laced rant against white students.

According to The Williams Record, WIFI was the first applicant in more than a decade to be rejected despite meeting all required bylaws.

According to a letter that Bernstein received from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in Boston, he retains “a right to file a private suit in federal court whether or not OCR finds a violation.”

David E. Bernstein, 52, is a law professor at the George Mason University School of Law where he has taught since 1995. He focuses on constitutional history and the admissibility of expert testimony. He is a contributor to the influential conservative legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy. He is a graduate of Yale Law School, where he was a senior editor of the Yale Law Journal. He took a B.A. degree summa cum laude with honors in History from Brandeis University.

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The Eagle Has Landed

The Berkshire Eagle has published a story on the WIFI free speech conflict. It interviewed some student leaders and broke new ground.

Council members Solly Kasab and Lance Ledet took issue with the discussion and voting process.

“The way the April 23rd meeting was run was ridiculous,” said Kasab, vice president of communications for the council, as well as treasurer of WIFI.

Kasab and Ledet said the way one co-president called on speakers, favoring one side of the discussion, was unfair. And both found it troubling that only three council members spoke during the meeting and that votes were secret.

Ledet termed the decision “absolutely politically motivated” and voted for WIFI to become a club. Ledet sees larger issues as well.

“Regardless of individual beliefs over whether or not WIFI should have become a club, I think everyone can agree that the debate highlighted how unrepresentative College Council is of the broader student body.”

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How Bureaucracy Causes Problems

Below the break is, I think, the last update from Williams about the WIFI situation.

The central lesson for President Mandel is that, if she wants to help out herself and future Williams administrations, the RSO (registered student organization) bureaucracy/forms should be removed. Go back to how things were done prior to 2010. (Thanks Adam Falk!)

Students have rights, organizations do not. If you want to reserve a room, request funding, set up a meeting, then you, as an individual Williams student, have the right to do so. From the College’s point of view, you do not need to be certified as an RSO to do anything. The main reason for this change is that it removes the likely-to-be-abused power from College Council to block the creation of student groups like WIFI.

The College should no more be in the business of certifying that an official student group exists than it certifies that official student romantic relationships exist. Students form groups. Students date. Williams should stay out of both.

If you have something, like the RSO designation, that is likely to be abused and which serves no purpose, then get rid of it. The Williams of (at least!) the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s managed to survive without such nonsense. Go back to the rules of an earlier era.

Nothing prevents the College Council from coming up with its own rules about who it wants to fund and why it wants to fund them. And that is OK! Many groups want money from CC and don’t get it. The College can, at any point, step in and fund any group for any reason.

For those interested in a bit of history:

I was one of the founders of Uncomfortable Learning and can shed some light on that decision. We spent a significant amount of time speaking with the Williams administration before making the decision to operate as an independent group, but one that looked to partner with other groups on campus like the Debate Union.

We made the decision to be independent as if we had registered, the Williams administration would have imposed a set of requirements on Uncomfortable Learning that would have prevented us from accomplishing the goals of UL. UL’s ambition has always been to promote dialogue and encourage people to consider perspectives and arguments that are not common at Williams. Administrators at Williams would have only allowed Uncomfortable Learning to register if UL was run by a 10 to 15-person board made up of many groups on campus. While UL has actively looked to involve other groups on campus, the structure required by the Williams administration would have kneecapped UL from the start. That structure would have just replicated the mindset at Williams while UL was looking to question that very mindset. As we have seen recently, there are people at Williams who react negatively when their world view is questioned, and we could not take the chance of having those people run UL.

During this era, people like Professor Sam Crane were happy to use the College’s rules/bureaucracy to torture unpopular groups like Uncomfortable Learning. That was evil in-and-of-itself. But, perhaps worse, that abuse set the stage for the CC/WIFI disaster. Once you create a process/rules for punishing groups (like UL) whose views you disagree with, don’t be surprised to see that same process/rules turned against groups (like WIFI) with whom you agree.

Background links here, here, here and here.

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K.C. Johnson on WIFI

K.C. Johnson, a former Williams professor, has written a detailed description of the WIFI saga for The Tablet.

Separate and Unequal for Jewish Groups on Campus

He pulls the whole matter together including the chronology. He hits many of the salient points that caught my attention including a truly bizarre Williams Record article, signed by 11 anti-WIFI activists, saying “The state of Israel does not need a student group defending its ‘right to exist’ on this campus any more than we need to ‘defend’ the rights of wealthy, straight white men.” What?!

K.C. moves the narrative forward when he dissects some of the key arguments made before the College Council. He writes,

Though constricting the spectrum of acceptable positions on Israel would seem to undermine principles of free speech, a WIFI critic explained otherwise. “It’s really important,” he reasoned, “for us all to take a moment to just think about what ‘free speech’ and ‘democracy’ actually means.” Two sides should present “clashing free ideas,” after which the council should “vote in what we think are the best ideas and for us to vote out what we think are ideas we think are worthy of being discarded.” Defining free speech as tyranny of the majority is a mainstream view on too many contemporary campuses.

K.C. Johnson expresses gratitude for the way Maud eventually went all out to protect and fully fund WIFI. Nevertheless, he sees this as a national-level conflict which will continue to worry us.

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