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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 change.org 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?

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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.

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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.

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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 . . .

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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

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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?

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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.]

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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.

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Uncomfortable Learning Speakers

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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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.)

 

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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.

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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 . . .

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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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New Rules for Outside Speakers III

Here (doc) and here are the new rules for outside speakers/performers. It seems obvious that these rules were created in response to the controversies surrounding Uncomfortable Learning, especially John Derbyshire. Let’s spend 3 days discussing them. Today is Day 3.

The College retains the right of refusal for any outside speaker/performer and/or their campus sponsor for any reason.

The College is a private organization and so it is within its rights to refuse any visitor. You might think that this new policy makes things harder for Uncomfortable Learning. You would be exactly wrong. Uncomfortable Learning is now in a stronger position than ever because now the College must decide, ahead of time, which speakers it is going to ban.

Imagine that UL leaders want to make life tough for Adam Falk. All they need to do is ask him (or the “Assistant Director for Student Organizations & Involvement in the Office of Student Life”) if they may invite person X to Williams. That is what the policy requires of them. They don’t have to — in fact, they are not allowed to! — invite person X before getting this permission. But this procedure (permission first, invitation second) means that they can endlessly torture Adam Falk by asking for permission for speakers that span the continuum from John Derbyshire on leftward.

The College is then trapped. Either they allow Uncomfortable Learning to develop a long list of all the speakers that Williams has banned (imagine the Washington Post article that would come out of the leaking of this list!) or they have to draw the line at Derbyshire and allow just about everyone else in. With luck, they will be smart enough to choose Door #2.

Does Uncomfortable Learning have the necessary student leadership to take advantage of this opportunity? Time will tell. What are your predictions?

And, perhaps more importantly, who should Uncomfortable Learning invite? Here and here might be good places to start . . .

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New Rules for Outside Speakers II

Here (doc) and here are the new rules for outside speakers/performers. It seems obvious that these rules were created in response to the controversies surrounding Uncomfortable Learning, especially John Derbyshire. Let’s spend 3 days discussing them. Today is Day 2.

There are lots of nitpicky new rules:

Student members of an OSL RSO must meet with the Assistant Director for Student Organizations & Involvement in the Office of Student Life at least one month in advance of the speaker/performer’s requested appearance to disclose and discuss contracts, funding sources, location, logistics, publicity, and other details.

Contracts for any outside performer/speaker being paid for coming to campus may be signed ONLY by an agent of the institution.

And so on. Comments/questions:

1) I doubt that all these rules could possibly be enforced. How can students give a month’s notice for an event scheduled for, say. September 30 when they didn’t even start to plan the event until school started on September 4?

2) There is nothing wrong with rules as long as the College enforces them in a content-neutral fashion. Do you think that Williams will enforce these rules against Uncomfortable Learning while giving progressive groups a pass? I hope not. The Record should certainly investigate.

3) The biggest problem with rules and bureaucracy is that they sometimes destroy the spaces in between. For example, do/should these rules prevent the Springstreeters from inviting a visiting a capella to perform? (Does this still happen? It was common back in the day.)

This section seems created specially for (or designed to stop?) Uncomfortable Learning:

The provision of funding from alumni, foundations, or other non-college sources for a performer/speaker and/or their program must be disclosed to the college. All agreements and arrangements related to such funding must be fully disclosed to the college at least two weeks in advance of an event. Contact the Office of Student Life for more information on seeking such approval.

But I don’t think it matters. UL will just inform the College (as they did in co-sponsoring last week’s speaker?) and the College will say Yes, as long as the speaker is not Derbyshire. The College already knows who the alumni funders of UL are. In fact, college officials have known from the start. And these alumni don’t care if the College knows. They just prefer to remain in the background, if only to avoid being hassled by social justice warrior wannabes like Sam Crane.

Nothing here need slow down Uncomfortable Learning, assuming, that is, that there are still students who believe in its mission of widening the range of opinions expressed at Williams. Are there?

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New Rules for Outside Speakers I

Here (doc) are the new rules for outside speakers/performers. (Can anyone confirm that these are the actual rules? Are they posted someone on the Williams website? These were sent by a source.) It seems obvious that these rules were created in response to the controversies surrounding Uncomfortable Learnings, especially John Derbyshire. Let’s spend 3 days discussing them. Today is Day 1.

To host an outside speaker or performer’s appearance and reserve a space for your event on campus, you must be one of the following:

A student representing an officially registered, College Council-recognized student organization (OSL RSO) Click here for more information on the registration process.

A student representing an organization that is part of the Minority Coalition (MinCo) or is advised by the Davis Center (DC RSO). Click here for information regarding DC RSO’s.

A faculty member.

1) This is a reasonable rule! I don’t particularly like it that faculty members have more rights than students, but such a distinction is not crazy.

2) I have never really understood why the students in charge of UL have never registered. They derive no meaningful advantage from not doing so. They just hand their opponents a handy cudgel to beat them with. They now have to register, which is almost costless and probably a good idea.

3) I hate it that there is one rule for most students (get registered with College Council) and another rule — separate but equal! — for students associated with Min Co. Why do this? Why separate Ephs according to the color of their skin or their political rules?

4) If UL is smart and/or trouble-making, that ought to go to the Davis Center and register as a part of the “Williams Activist Coalition.” Imagine the (hilarious!) stink they could make if Ferentz Lafargue tried to prevent them from joining the coalition! I bet that the paperwork here is much less onerous than the College Council paperwork.

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Record Approval Survey

From the Record:

Dear Student,

The Williams Record is conducting its biannual approval ratings poll of local and campus institutions and leaders. Please fill out the following poll by Monday May 2nd at 11:59 p.m. The more responses we get, the more accurate the poll results will be.

Please use the following link to participate in the poll.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1y46IvKRPc7vxGeD32TJ1ZPMZEjHIe0C_7ocNQ7RCGQw/viewform?usp=send_form

Thank you,

The Williams Record

1) Copy of the survey here. What advice do you have for the Record reporters behind this effort?

2) The Record ought to make the data behind this, and its other surveys, public. Transparency is good journalistic practice in general, and releasing the data would encourage Ephs of all ages to dive in and look for interesting results.

3) Here is the Record article reporting on the results. Any surprises? The entry system earns more approval than the neighborhoods, but not by nearly as much as I would have expected.

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Maluf ’18 on UL

Part 1 of Emilia Maluf’s ’18 Record series on Uncomfortable Learning was the worst piece of student journalism this year. How was Part 2?

1) Much better than Part 1! Maluf deserves credit for getting in contact with several of the alumni involved.

2) But there are still many problems. Consider her opening sentence:

To the student body, the operations of Uncomfortable Learning (UL) are shrouded in secrecy.

First, this is a group that has invited a dozen (?) speakers to campus over the last three years. At every single one of these events, a UL student has stood up, told the audience a bit about UL and invited other students to join. There is no “shroud” or “secrecy.” The Record itself has covered many of these events.

Second, let’s try this opening sentence with other student organizations.

To the student body, the operations of the Lecture Committee are shrouded in secrecy.

Now, in a stupid sense, this is true. Only a handful of students (not directly involved) know anything about the Lecture Committee or College Councils Finance Committee or the JA Selection Committee or . . . And that is OK! Life is busy and there is no reason why a random student needs to concern herself with the inner-workings of the dozens of student (and faculty!) committees/groups/clubs on campus. But Maluf is guilty of the worst sort of yellow journalism when she pretends (without quoting anyone!) that UL is especially secretive.

All but one, current head of group Zach Wood ’18, requested to remain anonymous.

Because she is not a very good journalist! First, the absurd first part of the series does nothing to engender confidence among students/alumni involved in UL. Second, she failed to take the opportunity (which at least one person provided her with) to come up with a quote that he would be comfortable saying on the record. Serious journalist do this by allowing the source to offer some material on background and to come up with a quote, often on a less controversial aspect of the topic, that the source is happy to see in print.

There is much more that is problematic here, but my sense is that readers are bored with the topic. Sound off in the comments if you want more Fisking!

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Self-Described Reporter

Worst Record article of the year? “Community examines Uncomfortable Learning (UL) after controversy” by Emilia Maluf.

First, not a single current member of the Williams community is quoted about the role of UL! Reporting on UL is an excellent idea. I am sure lots of Ephs have opinions. Professors like Sam Crane have been examining UL closely. Professor Steve Miller, as part of PBK, has co-sponsored at least one of UL’s talks. Maluf should have interviewed them and quoted them. Or her editors needed to come up with a better title.

Second, note the absurd bias in descriptions like this:

The extension of an invitation to speak to Suzanne Venker, a self-described author and occasional Fox News contributor whose views many found misogynistic and homophobic, and subsequent cancellation of that event sparked the controversy that led to the group’s rise in ubiquity.

And that is in just the second sentence of the article! Venker co-wrote a book. You can buy it on Amazon. If this fact does not make her an actual author, as opposed to a “self-described” one, what would? Are authors only real authors if what they write agrees with Maluf’s views?

Moreover, who are the “many” that found Venker’s views “misogynistic?” Name them. Quote them. This is Reporting 101. Also, there were certainly Williams students and faculty who, while they may not have agreed with Venker, would disagree with such extreme descriptions. A real reporter would, you know, ask people questions and quote them.

And things don’t get much better:

In February, UL planned a lecture by John Derbyshire, a self-described “novelist, pop-math author, reviewer and opinion journalist,” who many believed to be a white supremacist and racist.

Derbyshire is, in fact, an author. How can I tell? Because his books are owned by the Williams College libraries! Look then up in the course catalog and, under “Author,” you will find “John Derbyshire.” If Derbyshire is a “self-described” author, then is Maluf as “self-described” reporter?

What was with the “many believed” dodge? Who are these mythical many? If you can’t find a single such person to quote, even anonymously, then you have no business with such weasel phrasing.

Moreover, given the Record’s previous mistakes in writing about Derbyshire, Maluf (and her editors) have an obligation to bend over backwards to treat him fairly now. To use the “white supremacist” slur while not even acknowledging that Derbsyhire disputes this characterization and forced the Record to issue a correction is just embarrassing.

How did an organization designed to respect all views transform into a group criticized for providing a platform for offensive speakers at the College?

Huh? I have never spoken to anyone associated with UL who thinks the organization was designed to “respect all views.” Where is Maluf getting this stuff? Did she talk to any of the student founders? Did they respond to her questions? If she didn’t talk to them, she needs to admit that fact and acknowledge that she may not have a very good idea about how/why UL was designed the way it was.

My take is that UL was “designed” to promote uncomfortable learning — in the tradition of Robert Gaudino — by bringing unpopular views/ideas/speakers to campus, to expand the space of allowed dialogue at Williams. And, guess what? Maluf provides, later in the article, evidence which supports my view.

As Fischberg told students who gathered at the first lecture in January of 2014, the group sought to invite “speakers who challenge the Williams orthodoxy and promote intellectual diversity on campus.”

Good stuff! Maluf gets credit for, at least, unearthing a two-year old quote from a student leader of UL. But isn’t it standard journalistic practice to tell readers where she got this quote from?

In the 2013-2014 academic year, the group consistently invited highly-regarded intellectuals to speak at the College.

Huh? This just nonsense. UL brought a lot of great speakers but very few people think of, say, Jonah Goldberg as a “highly-regarded intellectual.” Indeed, I doubt that almost any member of the Williams faculty would describe a single one of UL’s 2013-2014 speakers in this way.

It seems that Maluf has a narrative in her head that UL used to be good and wonderful and then turned nasty and stupid. Alas, I lack the energy to dive any deeper into this nonsense, at least today . . . But, until Maluf starts treating her subjects fairly, it is hard to trust any of her other claims, at least without independent confirmation. If she misleads us about whether or not Venker/Derbyshire are actual authors, what else is she misleading us about?

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Chalkening at Williams?

Has The Chalkening come to Williams?

“If you’re listening right now, you’re one of the lucky ones that survived the Chalkening.”

That’s how the fraternity-culture and southern-college-culture brand Old Row opened its weekly podcast on Wednesday. The line, fit for an apocalypse movie, referred to a campaign by Donald Trump’s young supporters on college campuses. Their weapon of choice in their crusade to push their candidate into the White House? Chalk.

After students protested in March following the appearance of pro-Trump messages written in chalk at Emory University—which students who demonstrated said they saw as part of wider, ongoing racial issues on the school’s Atlanta campus—the national organization Students for Trump instructed its members to carry out more chalkings.

1) Has there been a Chalkening at Williams, or any other NESCAC school? Not that I have heard.

2) How many Republican and/or Trump-supporters are there among the students? The Garfield Republican Club seems to have been dead for at least several years. Isn’t it obviously unhealthy for one half of the political spectrum to have no meaningful representation at Williams? Wouldn’t it be wise for Williams to admit at least a handful of (academically qualified!) student Republicans?

3) Is chalking still a form a commentary/protest at Williams? The latest reference I can find to the Queer Student Union’s annual chalking of campus pathways is more than a decade old. Were the last chalk commentaries at Williams about caterpillars 10 years ago this spring?

PICT2261.JPG

By the way, the student who took those photos will return as a professor this fall. Old Time is still a-flying.

Informed commentary welcome.

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Record Assignment Desk

The forthcoming issue of the Record will get more views outside of the Eph family than all of last year’s issues combined. The news of an elite college president banning an student-invited speaker is that big a deal. What articles should the Record be working on, in addition to general news stories?

1) History of speech debates/suppression at Williams. I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t know this history at all. Does anyone? When was the last time a speaker was banned at Williams? What have previous Williams presidents said about free speech on campus? Start here, although I couldn’t figure out how to search. Suggestions welcome! Also, Katie Nash, the new Archivist, knows her stuff.

2) A comparison to other NESCAC/elite schools. Ask Amherst and Swathmore if they have ever banned a speaker. Ask them if they ever would. They might use this occasion to make fun of Williams. Ask them if they have any official policies which would prevent their students from inviting Derbyshire to campus. Place Falk’s action in the context of our peers.

3) Interviews with prominent alumni who have experience with, or expertise in, campus speech debates.

4) Interviews with faculty who have spoken out. I would start with EphBlog favorite Sam Crane who has an extensive discussion on his own blog. The key point to push with Sam is the following: Should students at Williams have fewer rights than students at MCLA? Because of the First Amendment, students at a state school like MCLA can not be punished for “hate speech” and can not be prevented from bringing (non-violent) speakers to campus, even if they are speakers that Sam Crane does not like.

Williams is a private institution and can have whatever rules it likes. But I would love to have Sam and other faculty on record as claiming that such restrictions benefit Williams students relative to their peers down the road at MCLA.

PS. Here is another suggestion for the name for the scandal: “Derb Makes Falk Uncomfortable.” This includes a reference to all three key players: John Derbyshire (who is nicknamed “Derb” in corners of the internet), Adam Falk and the student group Uncomfortable Learning. Previous discussion here. Only thing I don’t like is that it is too long. Suggestions?

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Falk Cancels Speech

I enjoyed Adam Falks op-ed in the Record last fall, especially this part:

The senior class may remember that in my Convocation remarks to them this fall, I gave them an assignment to seek out someone whose opinions and beliefs are different than their own, and to engage in a conversation to really listen and learn from one another.

Excellent advice! Alas, it looks like Adam Falk no longer agrees.

To the Williams Community,

Today I am taking the extraordinary step of canceling a speech by John Derbyshire, who was to have presented his views here on Monday night. The college didn’t invite Derbyshire, but I have made it clear to the students who did that the college will not provide a platform for him.

Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard. The college has a very long history of encouraging the expression of a range of viewpoints and giving voice to widely differing opinions. We have said we wouldn’t cancel speakers or prevent the expression of views except in the most extreme circumstances. In other words: There’s a line somewhere, but in our history of hosting events and speeches of all kinds, we hadn’t yet found it.

We’ve found the line. Derbyshire, in my opinion, is on the other side of it. Many of his expressions clearly constitute hate speech, and we will not promote such speech on this campus or in our community.

We respect—and expect—our students’ exploration of ideas, including ones that are very challenging, and we encourage individual choice and decision-making by students. But at times it’s our role as educators and administrators to step in and make decisions that are in the best interest of students and our community. This is one of those times.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

Good stuff! But surely there is more that Falk should do. For example, if Derbyshire can’t speak at Williams, then we can hardly allow his books to stay in the library.

derb

Hate speech is hate speech, whether it is spoken or written.

With luck, Falk will correct this oversight immediately. EphBlog recommends a nice book burning ceremony this afternoon, right on the steps of Chapin.

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Run for College Council

If you are the sort of student who reads EphBlog, then you ought to run for College Council. First, you will be in a position to try to make Williams a little bit better. You aren’t going to change the world or make the Administration change its policies, but, on the margin, you can improve things for students. Second, you will learn a lot about life, committees and bureaucracies — valuable knowledge for wherever you go after college.

Perhaps the single most important skill in the corporate world is to get people to do things, especially people who don’t work for you. There are few better places to develop this talent than College Council.

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MinCo Replies to Falk III

The Minority Coaltion has responded to President Falk’s e-mail about The Merrill Committee that is charged with examining problematic decorations/monuments/images at Williams. Let’s spend three days mocking this madness. Today is Day 3.

President Falk responded in the Record. Worst part:

How can we be the inclusive, welcoming place we want to be – and increasingly are – if the images and stories that surround our students, faculty and staff are largely from a time when so many of them wouldn’t have been welcome here?

I dislike the trope of “Williams was an evil nasty place until me and my friends showed up.” Is that really true? My importantly, will Ephs 50 years from now judge the Williams of 2015 as more welcoming than the Williams of 1985 or 1955 or 1925? I have my doubts. Read “Black Williams: A Written History.” Some students (and faculty?) feel disaffected from Williams today. The same has always been true. The same will always be true.

Most interesting part:

Here’s what I imagine to be a logical set of outcomes: The committee may determine that some historical representations on campus ought to be left as they are, that some ought to be removed or altered or that some ought to be added to, perhaps with historical context or commentary.

Where can we find a list of “historical representations” that the Merrill Committee is likely to consider? In all honesty, other than the painting at The Log, I have trouble coming up with anything even remotely controversial. Ideas from our readers?

Best part:

At Williams, committees are often the places where ideas are born and where decisions are made. It was the alumni-and-student Angevine Committee appointed by President Jack Sawyer that spent a year considering fraternities and in 1962 came to the conclusion that they needed to go. And it was the Committee on Coordinate Education that recommended enrolling women, a recommendation adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1969.

Exactly right, and exactly what EphBlog told you yesterday. EphBlog and Adam Falk, in agreement once again! However:

1) The Committee on Coordinate Education is a lousy example because it was never going to decide anything other than to admit women. Every elite school did the same. Any elite school that didn’t would have become unpopular.

2) The Angevine Committee is a great example (read the details on Wikipedia) because eliminating fraternities was a radical choice that most peer schools refused to do. That was real change.

3) Another good recent example is the MacDonald Report which led to a significant decline in the admissions preferences given to athletes.

4) Anchor Housing (the Dudley Committee?) is an example of major change coming out of the committee system. Alas, it was a total failure, as EphBlog predicted.

Big picture: Falk is correct to claim that change comes via committee. MinCo is foolish to pass on this opportunity to put its fellow travelers in positions of (some) power. Getting a seat at the table is the first step in social change at Williams.

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MinCo Replies to Falk II

The Minority Coaltion has responded to President Falk’s e-mail about The Merrill Committee that is charged with examining problematic decorations/monuments/images at Williams. Let’s spend three days mocking this madness. Today is Day 2.

In a recent email to the all-student listserv, President Falk indicated our capacity as co-chairs of the Minority Coalition (MinCo), to recommend three students for an ad hoc committee formed to address the “historical representations on campus.” After much reflection, discussion, and feedback from others, we have decided to directly address you, the student body, to inform you that we refuse this task as MinCo co-chairs to recommend a student to the Committee to Consider Historical Representation on Campus. We refuse to be complicit in the bureaucratic erasure it will inevitably perpetuate.

Williams professors should bow their heads in shame that actual Williams students would write such incoherent prose. Or would some of our readers like to defend “indicated our capacity” or “have decided to directly address you, the student body, to inform you” as good examples of the King’s English?

Here is the editing that Professor Steve Fix might suggest.

In a recent email to the all-student listserv, President Falk wants indicated our capacity as co-chairs of the Minority Coalition (MinCo), to recommend three students for an ad hoc committee formed to address the “historical representations on campus.” After much reflection, discussion, and feedback from others, we have decided to directly address you, the student body, to inform you that we refuse this task as MinCo co-chairs to recommend a student to the Committee to Consider Historical Representation on Campus. We refuse to be complicit in the bureaucratic erasure it will inevitably perpetuate.

Why write 93 words when 26 will do? But let’s leave aside the weak writing and move on to the suspect reasoning.

By restricting this conversations this committee will have to a select few faculty, administrators, and 3 student members who will serve on this committee, we risk allowing this critical moment to be usurped by the throes of bureaucracy

Arrghh! The writing is so bad! I can barely see the substance. I think (hope!) that “conversations” should be singular. Couldn’t the author proofread an all-campus e-mail? Is this some sort of pomo nonsense of which I am sadly unaware?

Anyway, bureaucracy is how bureaucracies change. Don’t these students know the history of Williams. Virtually every major change has involved a committee of some sort. Now, of course, not every committee results in change and there are some (very isolated) examples of change outside the committee structure. But, if you really want to change things like murals at The Log, then the Merrill Committee is a perfect place to start. Get some fighters on the committee and you have a chance. Unless you think that some students are so committed to the sacred cause of Non Problematic Murals that they are willing to take over buildings or go on hunger strikes, a committee is your only hope.

[W]e know that Professor Doug Kiel, the only Native American Studies professor who particularly teaches native Native American studies, was not consulted about the formation of this Committee; nor was the American Studies department, which is a body of diverse expertise surrounding the American legacies of (mis)representing colonial histories.

There may be a fair point here. Smart presidents consult far and wide before they create committees, precisely to avoid these sorts of process complaints. Once Falk decided there was going to be a committee, he should have had Keli Gail talk to any faculty member even tangentially connected to the issue. Maybe Falk entrusted the matter to Karen Merrill and she messed up? More likely, I suspect, is that these students are clueless.

At this point, the President’s Office has failed to demonstrate adequate due-diligence to include necessary, relevant, and expert voices on this committee.

This is evidence of cluelessness. Unless the students know, for a fact, that Kiel (or someone like him) would serve on the committee if asked, they have no business wordily complaining about a lack of “necessary, relevant, and expert voices.” Who would they suggest?

kielI suspect that there is some backstory here. Karen Merrill is smart! She knew that part of this discussion would center around Native American issues. She knew that Kiel was one (perhaps the only?) member of the Williams faculty with a relevant background. She is in Kiel’s department! Why wouldn’t she ask him?

Perhaps she was doing him a favor. Kiel is untenured! He should be spending every spare minute writing. Committee service is limited upside and unlimited downside. There could also be other stuff going on. Is Kiel going on leave? Has his appointment been renewed? And so on.

By the way, here is Kiel’s Linked In page and Twitter. Is he Native American? Does he look Native American to you? Is his ancestry — as opposed to his knowledge — relevant to whether or not he should serve on the committee? Excellent questions all!

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MinCo Replies to Falk I

The Minority Coaltion has responded to President Falk’s e-mail about The Merrill Committee that is charged with examining problematic decorations/monuments/images at Williams. Let’s spend three days mocking this madness. Today is Day 1.

1) Entire Min Co e-mail is below the break. Enjoy!

2) The new committee is not officially named the Merrill Committee yet, but the College does have a history of eventually naming committees/reports after the chair.

3) How is it that MinCo is able to send an e-mail to all Williams students? I don’t think that many/any other student organizations have that right, at least outside of very non-partisan notices about vacancies and what not. I think Falk is making a mistake to give MinCo such a loud megaphone. Of course, they can and should say whatever they want to (just like Uncomfortable Learning) but the College is under no affirmative obligation to give them privileged access to the all-student e-mail list.

4) The letter mentions that on “Sunday, December 6, our administration will hold a community forum focused on the topic of institutional diversity and equity.” Did anyone attend? What happened?

5) The letter mentions the “Committee on Historical Representation.” Is this the official terminology? I much prefer the “Merrill Committee.”

More deconstruction on Thursday . . . Full e-mail below.

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Only POC

Daily Messages reports:

La Loba Loca Workshops
La Loba Loca will be leading 2 workshops: the first one (for everyone), Abuelita/Ancestral Knowledge as a Tool for Liberation, will be today from 4:30-6pm in Dodd Living Room and the second (only POC), Know Yo’s Self: circle on Abuelita knowledge, cycles, herbs and wholeness, will be today from 7-9pm in Hardy House.

Yik Yak is afire with discussion. (For those unaware of current lingo, “POC” means “people of color,” which generally means everyone except non-Hispanic Caucasians.) Questions:

1) Where did the money come from for this event? (I assume that La Loba Loca requires funding.) Professor Sam Crane is always warning us about this unwanted influence of shadowy alumni groups and their divisive speakers. Is this another example? (I am joking! Sam is only concerned about conservative speakers. If a leftist group of alumni wants to bring a speaker who prefers segregated events, Sam has no complaints.)

2) Will the Record report on the controversy? It ought to! There is an interesting story to be told, both about the funding and about relevant College policies?

3) What are the relevant College rules? I assume that this is against Williams general policy of non-discrimination, but is there a specific section of the Student (or Faculty) Handbook that applies in this case. Yik Yakers point out other examples of exclusivity, like female-only outings organized by the Women’s Collective.

4) What should the policy be? As always, EphBlog prefers a world in which all the rights — like freedom of association — you have on Spring Street don’t disappear once you step foot on the Williams campus. If VISTA wants to organize a POC-only event, then they should be able to.

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Bronfman Science Center as a “Dubious” Proposition

50 Years Ago in the Williams Record, an editorial:

“The Smallness of Bigness”

With the Karl E. Weston Language Center, the Roper Public Opinion Center, the Van Rensselaer Public Affairs Center [and] the soon-to-be-constructed Bronfman Science Center . . . Williams College is running the risk of fragmenting the academic life of its students — much as the fraternities were criticized for fragmenting the student body and for mitigating against intergroup communication.

This is not to say that any of these centers is detracting from the general educational process. But there is, nevertheless, the possibility that Williams may soon offer programs as specialized as those offered in larger universities. The Bronfman Science Center, especially, seems dubious by the very fact that so few undergraduates will reap the benefits of its multi-million dollar facilities.

Williams must never sacrifice humanistic scope in favor of specialized obscurity. Already it has begun to succumb to the pressures of “bigness” and the need for fragmentation so apparent in contemporary educational trends… We certainly do not need a Berkshire Berkeley.

How has this critique held up today? Bronfman is coming down in 2018, to be replaced by an upgraded facility that will complement the equally-specialized Morley Science Laboratories, and, as foreseen, we have an array of ever more specialized buildings. Arguably, it is the humanities that have strayed into “specialized obscurity.” But the liberal-arts ideal seems has survived at Williams — the physical separation of academic spaces across majors and programs not imposing a boundary of academic experience.

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Should Uncomfortable Learning Register?

Professor Sam Crane insists that the students behind Uncomfortable Learning should (must?) register as an official Williams College student group. I used to agree. But maybe I am being naive? Since Sam seems (is?) diametrically opposed to the goals of Uncomfortable Learning, perhaps his “advice” is not worth taking.

Recall the excellent scholarship of Rutgers Professor Donna Murch ’91, a recent speaker at Williams. Murch documents that, in the long struggle for African American equality, many of the obstacles were “content neutral” — sort of like a requirement that student groups register. On the surface, something like a poll tax is not unfair. Everyone is subject to the same rules. In practice, however, the poll tax was both designed to disenfranchise African Americans and used by local officials to do so. Might the same be true of a registration requirement for student groups at Williams? You betcha!

First, we ought to dig into the history of this requirement. Where does it come from? (Also relevant are recent rules against soliciting funds from alumni.) Katie Flanagan ’14 kindly provides some of the history, but we need more details. Second, even if it is true that these regulations were not born in sin, there can be no doubt that Williams officials have tried to use these rules to stymie Uncomfortable Learning, just as Professor Crane has tried to do for weeks (months?).

That is, Williams officials have used these rules against students associated with Uncomfortable Learning in ways that the rules are rarely/never used against non-conservative students seeking to, for example, reserve a room.

Given that history, perhaps students are right not to register in just the same way that groups like the Black Panthers often refused to play by the rules of the society that they were challenging. A refusal to register is a form of protest. A refusal to register, to subject oneself to a set of rules that will be used by your enemies to hinder your goals, may be very smart.

Note Flanagan’s observation that “CC [College Council] would really only have jurisdiction over registered organizations.” If you doubt that College Council is very committed to your goals, then why would you register and, thereby, subject yourself to its whims?

Look at how much Uncomfortable Learning was able to accomplish in the last few years despite not being an official student group. Would it have been as successful if it had registered? I don’t know.

I still think that they should register, just as I think that they should not have disinvited Venker. But I also, with all due humility, recognize that they are much closer to the action than I am and that their judgments might be much better than mine.

If we have any former student leaders of Uncomfortable Learning among our readers, perhaps you could share your thoughts.

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