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Dost thou renounce Satan?

The Record Editorial Board writes:

In our June 6 statement “In solidarity with Black Lives Matter,” our editorial board expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and called on the College, its students and its alumni to make monetary donations. We made a donation as well, giving to three organizations that support grassroots journalism and journalists of color: the Marshall Project, the National Association of Black Journalists and Unicorn Riot.

But as the board met over Zoom to belatedly discuss these issues, it became clear that we, the Record, along with many predominantly-white journalistic organizations, need to hold ourselves accountable as well. For far too long, the Record has operated under institutional values, cultures and practices that illustrate that the Record benefits from and perpetuates white supremacy.

1) The current students on the Record have done a better job than any group over the last decade at least. Indeed, they may have published more high quality reporting than all those students put together. If Wokeness helps quality, then more Wokery, please!

2) This is nuts. Don’t you think? If I wrote a parody like this a decade ago, I would be laughed off the internet as an absurd slippery-slope fearing conservative maniac. And yet here we are.

Consider a single specific. The Record claims that its institutional values — values promulgated by people like Mike Needham ’04, Bart Clareman ’05, Ainsley O’Connell ’06 and scores of other students — “perpetuates white supremacy.” Give us some details. Which values, specifically, did Ephs like Needham/Clareman/O’Connell promulgate which helped to perpetuate “white supremacy?” The whole thing is insane.

It would be one thing — still unfair but not actually nuts — to claim that Needham/Clareman/O’Connell failed to live up to their own ideals, failed to be as accurate/thorough/objective as reporters ought to be. We are all sinners in this fallen world. But the Record now argues (really???) that these neutral values are part and parcel of white supremacy.

Should I spend a week Fisking this nonsense or is the whole topic too depressing?


BIPIC — Text and Subtext

Last month was the first time BIPOC was used in the Williams Record:

Widely-shared graphics produced by the YDSA have visually compared the $400,000 donation to the WPD to the $500,000 philanthropic commitment. “A minimum of $500,000 over five years will not cut it, especially when $400,000 was given to the Williamstown Police Department lump sum, despite their history of profiling and antagonizing BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] students and faculty,” Maduegbuna wrote.

Leave aside the substance of the debate. The first usage on the Williams website seems to be from last October. What is the text and the subtext of BIPOC? According to Wikipedia:

The acronym BIPOC, referring to “black, indigenous, and people of color”, first appeared in the 2010s. By June 2020, it had become more prevalent on the internet, as racial justice awareness grew in the US in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. The term aims to emphasize the historic oppression of black and indigenous people. The BIPOC Project promotes the term in order “to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context.”

Are Icelanders BIPOC? A questions like this demonstrates the idiocy of the text of BIPOC. Obviously, Icelanders are indigenous to Iceland. In fact, Norwegians are indigenous to Norway and the Irish to Ireland. But that is clearly not what the people who use BIPOC mean by the term, even if they are not smart enough or aware enough to admit it.

That incoherence brings us to the subtext of BIPOC: Blacks are (just now?) much more important in the American non-white coalition. Back in the day, and even just 6 months ago, the standard phrase was “people of color.” It explicitly included anyone who was not white and, implicitly, placed them on an equal footing. No one was more PoC than any other PoC. That is now intolerable. A certain subset of the left is tired of places like Williams claiming — truthfully! — that majority of its American students are People of Color. Asian-Americans are many things, but they are too successful and assimilated for an inclusive term like PoC to serves its rhetorical purpose. The subtext of BIPOC is that Asian-Americans are no longer (fully) People of Color.

Note how the linguistic fluidity of BIPOC makes this transition easier. The initial meaning of BIPOC includes the traditional term: people of color. It is simply placing more emphasis on Black and Indigenous than was formerly the case. (And, since Indigenous is such a small part of the conversation, this really means more emphasis on Black, consistent with the ordering: It is BIPOC, not IBPOC.) But soon, as the nonsense of Germans-in-Germany-as-Indigenous becomes clear, the meaning will change to Black and Indigenous people and who are also People of Color. That is, anyone anywhere who is Black is BIPOC. Anyone who is Indigenous and also a Person of Color is BIPOC. Anyone else, i.e., Asian-Americans, is not. You read it at EphBlog first!

Of course, that will still leave us with one last mystery: Are Japanese citizens living in Japan BIPOC? Fortunately, analytic consistency is not a major concern on the left these days, so I doubt this will be a problem . . .


Remote Learning Does Not Belong at Williams

What is the biggest mistake which Williams is making right now? The insistence that every course support “remote learning.” From this excellent Record article:

Faculty members have been asked to inform the College by yesterday, June 20, whether they would teach in person or remotely if the campus were to reopen in the fall. The academic subcommittee of the working group tasked with determining what an on-campus fall would look like sent an all-faculty email on June 10 to address curricular planning in the case that campus reopens in the fall. The College has not yet decided whether or not to open campus in the fall, with the decision deadline still set for July 1.

If faculty choose to teach in person, the subcommittee has advised them to design “hybrid” courses to accommodate those students who must continue learning remotely even if campus is open. In addition to anticipating that some students may opt to remain off campus for personal reasons or travel restrictions, the email raised the possibility that “the entire campus may need to switch to remote learning at some point as we did this spring,” or that some students or faculty who begin the semester in-person may need to switch to remote learning during the term. Depending on the development of the public health situation, “we may still need these hybrid models next spring or even the following year,” the subcommittee wrote.

As we have discussed several times, this is a bad idea. First, any student who can’t be on campus should take a semester off. Williams is a residential college. If you can’t be in Williamstown, you can’t get a Williams education. Second, faculty are hired to teach Williams students in classrooms on the Williams campus, not via Zoom. Of course, temporary emergency situations can allow for flexibility on a handful of occasions each year. But anything more than that is nonsense.

This nonsense might not be so bad if it were optional, if students were allowed to come to a classroom and faculty were allowed to teach them. Almost all students/faculty want to be on the log together! But it sure looks like the College is doing its best to make this impossible.

Some faculty members have raised the concern that requiring hybrid courses might discourage faculty from choosing to teach in person. “My strong preference all along has been to teach in-person,” Associate Professor of Political Science Justin Crowe ’03 said. “But the insistence on hybridity for all courses has me resigned to teaching remotely.” He explained, “To have the College compound the extra health risk of in-person teaching with extra workload — and the hybridity requirements are a substantial amount of extra work for anyone who chooses to teach in person — is disappointing.”

Though Crowe acknowledged that some students would need to continue remote learning regardless, he said the presence of other faculty who were already planning to teach remotely would provide “a decent number of courses for remote students to take.” Crowe added, “On an institutional level, I know there are lots of moving parts and conflicting interests, but it seems odd, given the dissatisfaction most students experienced with remote instruction, that we’d bring students back to campus and yet disincentivize faculty from teaching them in person.”

Exactly right. If the College insists on demanding that all courses allow for (simultaneous) remote participation, then faculty have no choice but to Zoom everything. Is that really what Maud wants? Perhaps!


3-0-3 Discussion

The Record‘s recent article on the topic of calendar changes — three courses a semester and no Winter Study — is extremely professional. Indeed, no recent article better demonstrates the Record’s resurgence. Yet, we still have questions! (Previous discussion here.)

1) Is there a single other school in the country which is decreasing its course requirements? I can’t find one. Doesn’t that make it really weird that we are doing this? I continue to believe that it is a bad idea. Any wagers on whether or not the faculty will fight back tomorrow?

2) Can we stop with the fiction that students won’t be back on campus?

These changes will take effect whether or not the College resumes in-person classes in the fall; Mandel has set a deadline of July 1 to determine whether or not classes will be held on campus. In an interview with the Record, Mandel cited the burden that students feel with remote learning as a reason to reduce the number of required courses.

It is true that July 1 is the deadline. But every report like this should mention that dozens of elite schools have announced that they will have students on campus and none are indicating that they won’t. The reason this matters so much is that, as best I can tell, the main justification for three courses is that the flexibility is needed if students are taking classes from home. But that will never happen! I, and every other observer, am happy to guarantee that students will be back. Planning for a scenario in which they won’t is like planning for an October blizzard. Not impossible, but also not really worth planning for.

3) Some Ephblog commentators highlighted this justification last week:

She also noted her belief that, if students are on campus, the changes could minimize the number of classrooms in use and therefore reduce COVID-19 spread. However, she clarified that students will still have the option to take more than three courses if they wish.

This is interesting! More reporting, please. My normie friends — Ephs who don’t read EphBlog and have children enrolled — find this weird. (Perhaps they want four classes for their $75,000!) Why not just use the classrooms from 7:00 AM till 10:00 PM? I don’t really have a sense of how many classrooms there are, how fully they are used, and how things would work with social distancing. Yet I know that Williams has been building, Building, BUILDING for decades, with no meaningful increase in enrollment. There is a lot of unused classroom space . . .

Even in the event that classes resume on-campus in the fall, Mandel believes that a reduction in the required number of courses will lower the number of classrooms in use and therefore assist in social distancing, even though students have the option to take four classes.

More reporting, please. And some more challenging of the Administration’s story line.

4) As we predicted, students don’t like this plan.

In a Wednesday Record survey of approximately 550 non-seniors, which received 294 responses, 86 percent of respondents reported that, if the fall semester were on campus, they would prefer to take four classes rather than three.

Is this Mandel’s Hank Payne moment? If student’s don’t want a three course semester, then why go down this path? And won’t the faculty object? Note the (key?) role played by faculty in shooting down the trimester plan.

Faculty feedback was ultimately the most impactful to Mandel, she said. “It was feedback from the faculty meeting … which made us realize there was an easier way to do what we were hoping to achieve with the three [semester] plan,” Mandel said. “I think what we learned about the various versions of the three [semester] plan was that it was making things hopelessly complicated, so we went to a system which would be simpler to understand and simpler to implement.”

In the faculty meeting on the trimester and three-semester plans, numerous faculty raised concerns that focused in large part around course requirements and scheduling. Chair of Mathematics and Statistics Richard de Veaux expressed relief that the administration decided against a three-term plan. “I am very relieved that the trimester system is off the table,” he said. “I had already raised logistic[al] issues at the faculty meeting that pointed out the problems that departments with scaffolded courses like Math with 130, 140, 150 and languages would have with the trimester system.” Multiple departments expressed concern that what de Veaux refers to as “scaffolded courses,” or courses that are sequential in nature and are only offered in a chronological order, could have been hampered by a three-term system.

Professor of Chinese Chris Nugent, who is also Chair of the CPC, expressed similar sentiments. “A three-term structure would introduce different challenges [to Chinese], such as deciding in which terms to offer the two halves of a year-long course or how to repeat parts of courses to allow all students who so desired to take these courses,” he said. “Because all units at the College have designed their curricula around our usual two-semester structure, I think we were confident that sticking to this would be the most fair option across the board and introduce the fewest unexpected challenges.”

How did this crazy trimester plan ever get to a faculty meeting in the first place? A competent president figures out, ahead of time, what is possible and what is not. Sometimes — once or twice in a presidency — you role the dice on a close call which you care deeply about. But that is not this. Mandel — and her advisers — should have figured out the problems with the trimester plan ahead of time. It should never have come before the faculty, especially since it is hard to see what advantages it offers.

Will it be the same with 3-0-3? Informed commentary welcome. If I were a faculty member, I would not like this.

Again, read the whole article. It is simply excellent. I am sorry I lack the energy to go through more highlights.


Three Courses Per Semester??

This seems like a big mistake. From the Record:

In an all-campus email sent today, President Maud S. Mandel announced plans to adopt a revised version of the regular two-semester academic calendar for the 2020-21 academic year. Regardless of whether classes are in-person or remote, students will be required to take a minimum of three courses each semester rather than four. Winter Study will not take place in January 2021.

“A two-semester model with reduced per-semester credit requirements and more space in the calendar offers the greatest latitude to meet diverse needs without compromising the quality of our education,” Mandel wrote in the email.

1) It was obvious to EphBlog a month ago, and obvious to everyone now, that Williams students will be on campus in September. It is OK for Williams to delay making that decision official until July, but we should focus planning on that eventuality.

2) It makes no sense to have students take just three classes. Am I the only one that sees that?

First, no other school is following such a crazy plan. (Contrary examples welcome.) Why? Because it is crazy!

Second, a danger we will face in September will be students infecting each other. We should keep them busy with academics! If anything, we should increase the workload, especially work like reading and writing that can be done alone in a dorm room. Decreasing student workload makes social distancing harder. Is there more or less social distancing during Winter Study? I seem to remember some fairly crowded Perry House parties . . .

Third, the quality of a Williams education is directly proportional to the number of classes students take, at least for classes one through four. How can Maud pretend otherwise? If the fourth class didn’t improve the quality of a Williams education, than why have we forced students to take it for the last 50 years? (History question: When did the 4 courses per semester become standardized?)

Fourth, is Williams going to prevent students from taking four courses? Presumably (?) not. I bet plenty (more than half? more than 75%?) will still take four. Heck, lots of students take five courses now. And, unless I am mistaken, none of the numerous requirements — for divisional distribution, writing intensive, majors, DPE and so on — are going away. In that world, how do you think employers will compare/contrast students who took only three courses with those who took four? It could (easily?) be that, despite the best of intentions, the causal effect of this policy will be to hurt the future prospects of the Williams students who take advantage of taking three courses. Is that what Maud wants?

3) Getting rid of Winter Study is not unreasonable. Several schools have announced fall semesters which will end at Thanksgiving, at which point they will send students home for 6 weeks or more. Williams could consider something similar. The last thing we want is students doing too much traveling back-and-forth from Williamstown to the wider world. But, at the same time, just what would we do with the students who can’t go home . . . There is some shirking here, obviously. Williams doesn’t want students to get sick, but it really does not want them to get sick while they are at Williams. The less time they spend at Williams, the better, from that selfish point of view.

4) Kudos to the Record for providing a copy of the original e-mail. It is a little thing, I know, and something every competent paper would do. But, for decades, the Record has failed to do this because it has been incompetent. Change we can believe in!

5) Key sentence from the e-mail:

These changes will maximize flexibility for students and limit the amount of time that people are required to be on campus . . .

A close reading is required. First, as discussed above, is “flexibility” the most important things to provide students? No! Williams needs to provide them, a), with safety and, b), with a quality education. I don’t see how three courses really helps with either. Second, note the switch from “students” in the first part of the sentence to “people” in the second.

Students have to spend the same amount of time on campus regardless!

Working class employees at Williams — janitors, cooks, B&G, et cetera — all have to spend the the same amount of time on campus.

White-color employees who interact with students have to spend the same amount of time on campus.

White-color employees who don’t interact with students have to spend the same amount of time (zero) on campus.

The only people this policy — requiring three courses rather than four — affects are faculty. Is the Williams faculty really so cowardly as to agree with this special treatment? Read Swarthmore’s Tim Burke.

6) Isn’t it a bit presumptuous to announce this before getting faculty approval? Maybe Maud just knows that the faculty will go along with whatever she wants. Maybe! And that is what Hank Payne thought when he announced the donation for the ’62 Center . . . Perhaps faculty readers could chime in.

7) Why announce this all now? The longer you wait to announce things, the more information you will have. Of course, you can’t wait forever. But, if we don’t have to announce to July 1 whether or not students will be on campus — Hint: they will be! — then we certainly don’t need to announce changes in course requirements.

Am I missing something here?

Rest of the (excellent) article below the break. Should I spend a week going through this?

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Record Plans

From Record Editor-In-Chief Samuel Wolf ’21:

For us at the Record, as for the rest of the Williams community, the past several months have been tumultuous. Since we departed campus, scattering ourselves around the country and globe, the Record board has been wrestling with how to provide trustworthy and compassionate journalism during a trying time.

Much will happen this summer, from the graduation of our seniors into an unstable job market, to the acceptance of rising first-years who face an unpredictable environment, to the work of several committees to reach a decision on the fall semester. We will continue to shed light on these stories, and we hope to be a consistent and reliable resource to all community members.

Over the summer, our coverage will re-center primarily around breaking news and investigative pieces. We hope in particular that our work will help elucidate the process and outcome of the administration’s deliberations on the fall 2020 semester, and, as always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback. If you have any critiques, questions, or leads, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at

As a close reader of the Record for many years, I think that this spring’s reporting and writing have been excellent, the best that I have seen in more than a decade. Kudos to all involved! I will reach out to Wolf and see if he wants to follow up on some juicy leads . . .


Three Pillars Failing

Excellent Record article about the recent Three Pillars election.

On Sunday, March 1, the Three Pillars Task Force released the results of its most recent election, which determined the members of the Williams Student Union and the Facilitators for Allocating Student Taxes (FAST). The election took place between Feb. 24 and Feb. 29, with a 26.2 percent turnout, and followed a student referendum abolishing College Council (CC) held earlier this month.

The Williams Student Union, in charge of representing the student body to the administration and serving as an advocacy body, includes three class representatives from each year. However, due to a lack of self-nominations, the junior class has only two representatives, while the senior class has one.

Three Pillars has already failed, as we predicted it would. If you can’t get enough candidates to run in the first election, when interest and excitement is at its highest, then you are an incompetent designer of new institutions.

Reporter Lucy Walker does a great job here. Is it just me, or is the average quality of Record articles much higher in the last few months? Kudos to her and/or to her editors.

Remembering chaos in CC and ineffective governing and advocacy, many students are hoping that the new structure and their role in it will help create positive change.

Future historians will want to know why CC was abolished now. Seems like controversies about Black Previews and WIFI were key. Or was there other “chaos” that we failed to cover?

Jonah Tobin ’23 emphasized the unique opportunity the Student Union presents. “Without formal power, this will be an experiment to listen to and act on the needs and interests of the student body,” Tobin said. “I hope to create tangible change for the student body and be an open sounding board to their ideas.”

“Without formal power,” the WSU will be a total failure. Is that not obvious? No wonder so few students bothered to run, or to vote.

The senior representative for the Williams Student Union is Sara Shamenek ’20, who was elected from a field of 22 write-in candidates due to a lack of applications from the senior class.


None of the newly-elected members of FAST responded to a request for comment.

That is a good start on transparency! Say what you will about the old CC, but its members would talk to the Record.

The turnout for the election was 26.2 percent, with 571 total students voting. The student turnout rate was 13.5 percent lower than the turnout rate for the all-campus referendum to abolish CC, which had 868 total votes and a voter turnout of approximately 40 percent.

Participation in the TABLE elections later this spring will be even worse.


Weight off of My Shoulders

This Record article provides an excellent overview of Three Pillars. Kudos to reporters Jeongyoon Han and Taryn Mclaughlin! Highlights:

Cabrera-Lomelí said he was “joyful” after hearing the news. “There is a weight off of my shoulders, off of [Sherman’s] shoulders, off of the Task Force…. The power is back in the hands of students, not in a room with [select] students.”

CC President Cabrera-Lomelí comes off as fairly buffoonish in this article. Is that fair? I am comfortable with CC presidents who take their responsibilities seriously enough that they really are a weight on their shoulders. I am comfortable with CC presidents who take a less serious attitude, recognizing that this is just student government at some tiny college, and nothing really matters. I find absurd a CC president (like Cabrera-Lomelí?), who acts like the job is serious and then destroys the very institution he has taken responsibility for.

Ryan Pruss ’20 concurred, particularly about the need for increased financial transparency.

No one loves transparency more than EphBlog! But wasn’t CC already fairly transparent, with live video of the meetings on Facebook and reasonably thorough meeting notes? And, to the extent it wasn’t transparent enough, then Cabrera-Lomelí and Sherman could have easily fixed this. Nothing (?) prevented them from, for example, putting every funding decision, indeed every funding request, on-line.

The Three Pillars will replace CC, which has received public scrutiny over the past year for its lack of student participation in elections; its bylaws, which were criticized as outdated and convoluted; its hesitance to fund Black Previews, or affinity programming for black students admitted to the class of 2023; and its decision not to grant registered student organization status to the Williams Initiative for Israel.

This seems like a great one paragraph summary of how we came to be here. Is it? (Commentary welcome!)

1) A big part of this debacle is certainly the pernicious influence of woke politics. If CC had just handed Black Previews money immediately, would Three Pillars exist?

2) Note how juvenile some of these complaints are. Student participating in CC elections has been low for decades. It is low at other schools. It will be low in the future. And that is OK! Students have better things to do. But a lack of participation is a lousy reason to abolish CC.

3) I agree that the CC bylaws were convoluted and outdated. (I do not know the history here, but, again, I think this was a product of misguided student reform efforts a decade (or more) ago. Who knows this history? Roberts Rules of Order are overkill for CC.) But, again, this was easy to fix. The bylaws can be changed by CC itself. Why didn’t Cabrera-Lomelí and Sherman just fix them? Why destroy a 50+ year old organization?

4) Did the WIFI issue play a role? I (naively?) see WIFI as a case where CC did the right thing from a woke point of view. That is, if you disliked CC’s hesitation about funding Black Previews, you would have applauded their decision to not recognize WIFI. Or did opponents of CC’s decisions — even though they disagree with and/or hate each other — just decide to gang up on CC as their common enemy? I am confused.

Entire article is below the break (because the Record can not be trusted to maintain its own archives).
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Making the Williams Record a First Class College Newspaper

The new Editor-in-chief of the Williams Record is Samuel Wolf, supported by new Managing Editors Jeongyoon Han and Rebecca Tauber. How might they turn the Record into a first class college newspaper?

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

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

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

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

The same sort of pitch applies in other areas:

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

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

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

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

Consider this article about former President Morty Schapiro, this article about outgoing Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass and this article about outgoing Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell. Not a single critic is quoted. (And the last two articles were written by then-editor-in-chief Goldrosen!) I suspect that not a single critic was even spoken with. The student reporters for my local middle school are more serious.

Senior administrators always have critics. It is simply pathetic for a newspaper “reporter” — and I use the term loosely — to only discuss one side of the story. Morty Schapiro is wonderful! Yeah! But to write an entire article without even mentioning (or knowing about?) Neighborhood Housing — the biggest controversy of Morty’s era and the biggest failure in administration policy in 20 years — is embarrassing.

The Record could be a great paper. Will Samuel Wolf make it so?


Press Record

I think the Record generally does a good, but not fantastic, job; I wouldn’t praise it as highly as Whitney did earlier this week, for example, when it came to that specific article (in an article about how the opioid crisis is affecting Berkshire County, it seems important to me to interview the people actually affected by the crisis and not just the public officials responding and the academics studying it).

That said, I just discovered Press Record, the Record‘s “weekly podcast that gives an overview of the week’s top news and delves into a few stories.” (It’s pronounced re-CORD, as in Press [the] Record [button]…clever!) And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve listened to so far from it!

It’s clear that podcast editor RB Smith is pretty into podcasts; from the smooth editing and sound quality to the jingle (a vibraphone-sounding cover of “The Mountains”) to Smith’s vocal cadences (he isn’t always the narrator for the episodes, but when he is, the way he speaks echoes the way great podcasters tend to speak), it’s clear they’ve taken their cues from the likes of This American Life, and the result is high quality and enjoyable.

Check it out with Press Record’s latest episode, “12 Hours in Tunnel City,” where, as part of the Record’s Town and Gown themed issue, Smith and Record editor of communications Rebecca Tauber spend the day in Tunnel City to observe and interview the mix of townies and students who spend their days at the coffee shop. And check out their backlog to tide you over while the Record is on break!


Kudos to the Record for its recent article on the opioid crisis in Berkshire County

Very interesting article in the Record about how the opioid problem is affecting and being handled in Berkshire County.  As stated in the article’s lead passage, opioid related deaths have skyrocketed in recent years:

Over the past decade, Western Massachusetts has been devastated by a nationwide opioid crisis that has proved especially calamitous for the rural northeast. According to a study published by Brandeis University on Sep. 6, Berkshire County experienced a 48 percent increase in opioid-related deaths between 2017 and 2018, and Western Massachusetts as a whole faced a 73 percent increase.

The article gives some general background on the problem nationally, and then goes into details about treatment and prevention programs in Berkshire County.

I was very impressed by the level of detail and depth of research shown in the article.  The author (Samuel Wolf) clearly spent a great deal of time researching the facts before writing, getting long quotes from a variety of people involved in helping those with opioid related problems, including Susan Cross ’88.  I highly recommend that you read the story.  My only (mild) criticism is that I was hoping there would be a section on the prevalence of opioids at Williams.  I would guess that there is at least some opioid abuse at the College, and it would have added to the story if that information could have been researched and explored a little.

Regardless, this excellent article continues a trend at the Record of very professional looking journalism, on topics as diverse as party-related tensions on Hoxsey Street, and new turf fields at Mt. Greylock HS.  The writers are getting out and talking to people to find things out.  I wonder whether Mr. Wolf, and perhaps others at the Record, are thinking about journalism careers.  The work product they have been putting out speaks very well for the current team.


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.


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.)

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.


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.


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.


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?


“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?


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.


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.


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 (,  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.


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.


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.


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.


Advice for EphBlog Authors

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

E-mail (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 gone 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 your 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.


Fox News Takes on Williams Record

It looks like Rep. Jason Chaffetz took a shot at the Williams Record while he was guest hosting the Ingram Angle on April 22, 2019. The issue was the editorial board’s endorsement of affinity (segregated) housing.



Requesting evidence is violence

The Record’s final edition for the year came out on Wednesday, featuring several opinions. A couple of them appeared to respond to Professor Luana Maroja’s recent op-ed, “Refuting claims of institutional violence: Analyzing evidence of racism at the College.” Professor Maroja has historically been an advocate for free speech at the college, and her article’s thesis was simple: There is not sufficient evidence for claims of institutional racism at the college.

Two opinions this week sought to provide an argument for structural racism at the college. Professor of geoscience Phoebe Cohen wrote the more compelling of these, at least trying to provide evidence for racism. She begins her article with the following:

I am white. I am racist. I am not proud of this fact, but I have accepted it. Acknowledging that I am racist helps me to become, I hope, less so. I catch my instinctive thoughts and ask them why they are there. Why am I feeling annoyed, fearful, dismissive in this moment? When someone in my community at Williams tells me they feel unsafe, and my first instinct is skepticism, I know that it is a fallacy to say that I’m skeptical because of my training as a scientist. Instead, it is because I don’t want to believe that my colleagues are racist, sexist, transphobic. Not believing it doesn’t make it true. I am a white person raised in a racist, white supremacist country. Every day I have to make a conscious decision to fight against that and to challenge my own thoughts and biases. 

Truthfully, I would expect more out of a scientist. Skepticism is never a fallacy; it should be the instinctive response to any claim. What is a fallacy, however, is blindly accepting anecdotal evidence as statistically significant.

Professor Cohen spends a large part of her article describing racist events outside of Williams and employing definitions of racism, white supremacy, transphobia, etc. that are strictly unscientific (if they cannot be refuted and their validity is contingent upon diagnosing their opponent, they are scientifically meaningless). She finally hits a note, however, in her discussion of microagressions:

As a scientist, I love to go to the literature. I pull up Google Scholar and what I find confirms what I am telling you. People are racist and full of biases. And while it may be true that people don’t often get punched in the face on our campus, that does not mean that violence does not occur. What happens more often are the much maligned “microaggressions.” The thing is, even if you don’t want microaggressions to matter, they do. The research backs this up, but so do the experiences of our own friends and colleagues.

However, this point is mostly trivial. Of course microagressions and implicit bias exist; nobody is denying this fact. Tribalism is unfortunately a very instinctive trait among humans. However, it is important to remember that this bias exists among all groups. In fact, I would argue that whereas there is only implicit bias toward minority groups on campus, there is very explicit bias toward majority groups; people are not afraid to say they hate or do not trust white men. All individuals should seek to be aware of our biases. However, implicit biases and microagressions are a far cry from the much more alarming claim of “structural violence,” which merits stronger evidence.

While I disagree with Cohen’s article, I thought it was at least a thoughtful contribution to the discussion. Students were not so thoughtful. The op-ed titled “Bearing witness to aggression against faculty of color: Calling for accountability from the College for structural racism” features a number of bizarre claims. I won’t recreate them in full here. However, we need to draw attention to one sentence in particular:

The constant request for more evidence of racism is also violence because it invalidates the ways in which racism harms our mental health and our bodies.

This is the absolute worst response possible to the debate, but, unfortunately, is the crux of most of the arguments of the Social Justice Warriors. No matter how true your claim is, dogma is bad. These students could have discovered a unified theory of science, and this dogma would still be terrible. In what world is it good journalism to equate basic scientific inquiry to violence?

The lack of ideological diversity is already a problem at institutions like Williams, but nothing fatal. An attack on scientific methodology and healthy discourse, however, is a much more dangerous development. Consider that, additionally, students on campus have been calling for Professor Maroja’s op-ed to be taken down because it is disrespectful to minority communities. A plea for free speech is now ironically being attacked by suppression of free speech. Of course, the college will not dignify this suppression of speech (Mandel’s recent WIFI statement proved that she is not a pawn of these activists). But it remains unsettling that a growing number of students are adopting this philosophy and dogma is now the social norm.


The Latest Postmodern Jargon: “Minoritized”

As DDF noted in a previous post, the subhead of the Record article editorializing in favor of affinity housing read:

Creating space for minoritized students

This is also the same language used in the CARE Now petition:

We demand increased support and safety for minoritized students on campus, which include students with disabilities, students of color, low-income students, queer students.

I suspect similarly to David that the intent of this word is to demonstrate this identity is something imposed upon the individual. It echoes the view that all ideas and language were socially constructed by those in power (probably the white man) to further establish that power hierarchy. This social constructivism thesis has a few important steps. It first presupposes that these ideas and identities are socially constructed (this is trivial; almost everything is socially constructed), then moves to claim that this construction serves external some purpose. Philosopher of science Ian Hacking handily describes this as a construction’s “extra-theoretical function.” In the case of “minority,” the word is perceived to have some purpose outside of its perceived meaning–namely, to assert power over the groups it describes. The notion of purpose, however, necessarily presupposes that there is an architect behind this construction, since purpose requires a rational agent. This is how we move from the fairly modest claim that the “minority” identity is, at least in part, socially constructed, to the claim that these identities were constructed by privileged parties to assert their power. Hence comes the need to reinvent the word “minority” to reflect its “true” significance as an identity forced upon a group.

The problem with the social constructivism thesis that, as I see it, lies behind this change in lexicon, is that it makes an unwarranted jump from acknowledging that ideas are in part socially molded to assuming that they were intentionally forged this way by malevolent beings of power. Is it not possible that the word “minority” serves the objective, mathematical purpose of describing a group that represents a small percentage of a population? It is absurd to subvert objective language used to assert mathematical facts with biased sociological analyses.

Perhaps this has all been a little tangential to most events on campus. Though confusing, it is ultimately not a problem if a group of students sometimes chooses to use a fancy invented word over a commonplace one. What is a problem is that these students embed a narrative into the semantics of every conversation they have, fundamentally redefining the logical playing field in which these discussions occur. This is a narrative of the oppressor and the oppressed, of the good and the bad. Choosing not to adopt this language may be perceived as insensitive and even unacademic, but ultimately it is an issue of supreme ideological importance.


Affinity Housing, 2

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

Note the subhead of the Record editorial:

Creating space for minoritized students

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

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

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

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

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

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


Affinity Housing, 1

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

Start with the Record:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Record editorial and CARE Now demands below:
Read more


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