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Help fix Willipedia

It is well known that Willipedia is a great thing, so it is really too bad that alums can’t log in. We want to fix this, but our logins all work. If you’d like to help with this, please do as follows:

Try to log in to Willipedia using your AWC (Alumni Web Community, for the alumni office web site) login and password. If it doesn’t work, and if you’d be willing to repeatedly try to log in to test whether various attempts at fixing it have been successful, then leave a comment below. Please make sure to put a functioning e-mail address in the appropriate text box (it will not appear on this site) so that I can contact you.

Also, if your AWC login does work to log in to Willipedia, you can leave a comment mentioning your class year and any other distinguishing information, which would give us more information as we try to figure out what the problem is.

Thanks!

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Good Personal Choice

Kristen Emhoff speaks truth to power.

Perhaps now I should state my own opinions. I believe prostitution, bestiality, and unconsensual sex is wrong. I believe that saving sex for marriage is a good personal choice medically, emotionally, and spiritually. I believe that other people are not making the best choice when they have casual sex. I believe that both women AND men are currently objectifying themselves through their liberal sexualities. Do I agree with Annie Sprinkle? No. Do I support Positive Sex Week? Not really, though I performed with an a cappella group at Vulvapalooza. Do I believe in equality of the genders? Yes. Do I believe that people should be able to state their minds while I either listen respectfully or excuse myself from their presence? Heck yes, I do.

The central problem with having a “Women’s Center,” i.e., an official organization within the college with its own space, staff and budget is that it will (almost) inevitably be captured by people who disagree with Emhoff. Positive Sex Week is just one manifestation of that disagreement.

Again, it is key to understand the details of the underlying administrative structures, and not just for you Marxists out there! No one has a problem with a student group called, say, the Women’s Collective. Student groups are great! The more the merrier. Such a student group could elect its own leaders, plan its own programs, lobby for funding, advertise for attendance. All good stuff, no different from what other student groups do.

But there is no more reason to have a Women’s Center as an official department of the College than to have an Overweight Student Center or a Republican Student Center or a Marine Student Center or Low Income Student Center. Williams is an inclusive enough place that the normal structure of student groups care handle the concerns and interests of these students. This isn’t to say that Marine students or Low Income students don’t face special issues, that a place like Williams may be foreign to, and uncomfortable for, them. It may be. But that problem needs to be handled by inclusion not separation.

The most telling part of the Sara Ansell’s comment was her praise:

The students on the Women’s Center leadership board took great effort to request funding from as many sources possible. You can see the complete list of sponsors on the posters. Also, while I advise the Women’s Center and love it, there are 8 wonderful and dedicated students who a ridiculous amount of work to put together events, put together discussion, and carry the load of running the Center.

Eight students?! This is all about 8 students! Even after all of Sara Ansell’s endless campaigning and consciousness raising there are only 8 students at Williams committed enough to the cause of a Women’s Center to serve on its Leadership Board?

Note how different this is to the establishment of, say, Rice House. Virtually every black student on campus took part in the protests which created Rice House. The reason that the Women’s Center is a bad idea is that there was no similar grassroots demand for it.

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Herstory

Katie Grace on WSO.

That being said, the Women’s Center is a new organization. The Leadership Board has had to battle for the funding to even begin to think about programming, scrounge for a place to hold meetings, and explain themselves and their vision time and time again only to have their views (and even facts about their organization, such as the involvement of Sara Ansell) distorted by others.

The only reason that anything is being “distorted” is because it is difficult for anyone, on campus or off, to figure out the facts. What is the Women’s Center? Who is on the Leadership Board? Who started the project? What is the budget? What does the money come from? What has Sara Ansell’s involvement been and what will it be going forward? These are all reasonable questions deserving of answers.

Now, it would be one thing if the only questions/complaints came from patriarchal old alums. But the thread makes clear that there are plenty of Williams students, including (especially?) women, with these concerns. Priority #1 for the Women’s Center should be addressing them. It would take no more than 30 minutes to put up a FAQ on WSO with the answers to these questions. Why doesn’t Grace, or someone else, do it?

Minor quibbles:

1) “[S]crounge for a place to hold meetings.” Huh? Isn’t Williams filled with meeting rooms in places like Griffin, Greylock/Dodd private dining rooms and so on? Are these all taken, all the time?

2) Complaints about distortion are annoying and reminiscent of the whining from CUL during the housing debate of two years ago. The only reason that many female Williams students are confused is that there are no easy-to-find answers. It is nice of Grace to post the mission statement (if that is what it is) of the Women’s Center in this thread, but that is hardly a permanent solution. Create a simple page. Whenever anyone has a question, point her to that page. Presto! No distortion.

3) What is the difference, if any, between the Women’s Center and the Women’s Collective? I think that they are just different names for the same thing. Or is the Women’s Collective a different name for the Leadership Board.

4) “[B]attle for the funding”. Huh? Why is the Women’s Center different from every other student organization at Williams? Funding is limited. Is Grace claiming that the powers-that-be, whether in the Administration or on College Council, have treated the Women’s Center any worse than any other student group? Why would they?

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Sex Positively

Positive Sex Week is on.

VULVApalooza TONIGHT in Chapin! 7:30pm.
and
And on SATURDAY, the Porn Star herself…Annie Sprinkle!
(www. anniesprinkle.org)
Sat, 12-1:30–“The Amazing World of Orgasm” porn viewing. Lunch and discussion with Annie. Hardy House living room.
Sat, 2:30-5pm–Free Sidewalk Sex Clinic! With Annie and other sex experts. Open to any and all questions. Paresky Center.
Sat, 8-10pm–“My Life as a Feminist Activist Porn Star” Brooks Rogers

My thoughts are the same as before. Note that the above announcement comes to us from Sara Ansell, an employee of the college. If students want to lead and organize such events, then great. More power to them. But, from a distance, a lot of these efforts seem driven by Ansell. True? And how much is all this costing?

Money is limited. Future Marine Jeff Castiglione ’07 was trying to organize a talk with Anthony Zinni, retired Marine General and Iraq War critic. Castiglione was told that there wasn’t enough money available. Yet Sara Ansell seems to have no trouble rounding up the funds for a week-end’s worth of insights from a porn star. If the College only has funding for one speaker, should it choose Zinni or Sprinkle?

More importantly, I have my doubts about how open Ansell and her ilk are to opinions on sexuality which differ from their own. Where on this week’s program is someone with a perspective like that of Wendy Shailt ’97?

It’s like some big cosmic joke: The people who are supposed to be “sex positive” and enjoying their cultural freedoms are actually lonely and having terrible sex, whereas studies have shown that religious marrieds are the ones enjoying themselves the most. What’s happened? Perhaps without emotions involved, sex becomes boring.

More from Wendy here.

But much more important than the numbers are the underlying attitudes. Here social science is pretty clear. Teens, especially girls, tend to regret their sexual experiences, and the more experiences they have, the more likely they are to be depressed and commit suicide. For both sexes, an increase in sexual partners throughout one’s life is negatively correlated with human happiness.

Consider Levy’s 19-year-old Debbie Cope, who experiences regret after doing a “scene” for a Girls Gone Wild video–not because she masturbated on camera in the back of a bar, but for “not doing it right” when for some reason beyond her grasp, she couldn’t climax.

The fact is, “do whatever you want” is meaningless to a girl like Debbie. Debbie has had more “sex-positive” opportunities than she knows what to do with. Still, she doesn’t realize something basic: Women are typically paid to appear in pornography precisely because being a sexual object is not supposed to be fun. Like many young women today, Debbie is publicly sexual, while remaining utterly alienated from her own sexuality.

I think girls today want to hear that they can be sexual beings without having to be boy-toys. And indeed, we’re seeing that there’s a greater chance of real intimacy that way.

If the Women’s Center is so interested in ensuring that students at Williams are exposed to a variety of viewpoints, then we can safely assume that she will be inviting Wendy, or someone like her, to speak at the College sometime this spring. Right? (Related WSO discussion here.) Lauren Guilmette writes:

Sex Week is full of several activities and a variety of angles. Annie is one. We’re bringing Annie Sprinkle because, as a performance artist, activist and sexologist, she adds an interesting spin to the very issues you’re raising – can pornography exist outside of the objectification it seems to inevitably create? (as the filmed experiences/bodies of others, literally objects… can there be anything positive for sexual expression/understanding/dialogue there?) While certainly not an apologist for pornography, Annie has worked from the inside (pun intended) to change a genre that will exist regardless of what feminists think, to make it positive for women in a groundbreaking way. The reason we’re bringing Annie is not because we want all women on campus to believe in the merits of pornography; rather, we want to get people talking about this and other topics, latent in our everyday experiences.

Back in the day, the trouble I used to make was most excellent at getting “people talking” so I shouldn’t complain. But I’ll believe this spin when Wendy is invited to Williams by the Women’s Center.

UPDATE: Great comment in that same thread from Madelyn Labella.

Besides which, I’m not convinced that the best response to the continual commodification of sexuality is by embracing self-commodification. I understand that the Women’s Center wants to celebrate female sexuality, but I feel like part of the larger mission of protecting dignity and demanding respect for the gender as a whole is getting lost. It really upsets me that this is coming from the organization whose stated purpose to support and nurture the female population here — I actually feel rather betrayed.

Am I an outlier?

No. What does it say about the sort of job that Ansell is doing that some students feel “betrayed?”

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Apply for the 2007 Willipedia Board

You saw David Kane’s application. Now, David is a very dedicated alum who is willing to devote many hours to writing things about Williams, but as you know, sometimes people disagree with him. Are you one of them? Then apply to be on the 2007 Willipedia board.

We want current students, and we want alums. We want a diversity of opinion, dedicated writers, and people who know things about Williams. The 2006 board has students from the classes of 2004 through 2007, and it’s been a great year, but there are some historical gaps that we just can’t fill in. For that, we need alums, from any period, really.

Guy Creese? HWC? Perhaps. One of the many people who read EphBlog and almost never, if ever, comment? Yes, probably one of you is just the person we’re looking for. So please, apply to be on the Willipedia board. You’ll be glad you did.

(And if you agree with David Kane, that’s okay, too.)

The full announcement, with all the details, is below (click the following link):

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Future of Willipedia

Does Willipedia have a future? Good question. Below the break are excerpts from the call for applications to the Willipedia board along with my answers. Comments:

1) Willipedia seems to be dying. The main page still wishes us all a Happy Father’s Day. Nothing wrong with that sentiment, of course, yet it indicates a lack of involvement by whoever can edit that page. Why would any first year get involved with a project so out of date? The rate of edits seems to be much lower this year than last.

2) The members of the current board that I know are excellent Ephs, just the sort of people you would want involved in this project. If anyone can make a go of Willipedia, they can.

3) I applied for the board last time but was rejected. I have had my run-ins with the board about policies concerning campus controversies. It was amusing to read some of their discussion about me in the (now closed) archives of the mailing list. I will apply again. If they are smart, they will take me and pretty much any warm body with a serious interest in Willipedia. Without more involvement, the project is doomed.

4) I am proudest of the history of the elimination of fraternities. Yet it is endlessly annoying that I can’t edit it. (AWC logins still don’t work, I think, for older alumni.) I am about to move the entire page over to Wikipedia. Indeed, anyone wanting to ensure that his contributions to history have a permanent home would be well-advised to do the same.

My answers to the application below.

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Homecoming and the WSO Rideboard

At the end of the week, after work on Friday, I’ll be hitting the road to make the five-hour trip from my home on the Main Line of Philadelphia to Williamstown for Homecoming. Anyone who needs a ride at this time from this area is welcome to contact me and see if something can be arranged, as long as you can share the car with . . .

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A Randomly Selected Article

Since neither WSO nor Williams cares that much about alumni/student interaction, I am unable to participate in this thread about a recent study in the Lancet on Iraqi mortality rates. If I could participate, I would point out that the Wikipedia article is a good place to start and includes a link to the actual report. I also spend absurd amounts of time on this topic at places like this and this.

But the interesting Eph-specific comment is from Ken Flax:

we read the 2004 study (lancet) for psyc stats as just an exercise in statistics….take-home point, the results are very robust and the study was peer-reviewed by other statisticians that belived it was sound. the guy from johns hopkins (les roberts?) is well-known for calculating war-time civillian deaths in places like the congo, etc.

1) Count me among the statisticians with serious doubts about both Lancet studies.

2) Interesting how this article was selected for an introductory stats in psychology. Would that be PSYC 201? Who was the professor?

3) Say what you will about the article, but it has nothing to do with psychology? It is the most famous Bush-bashing statistics article published in the last few years. Perhaps it was selected randomly! Did the professor offer any critiques of the article? Just asking!

4) For the record, I assigned/cajoled one of my summer interns into using the article/data for his STAT 201 project, so using the article is not, ipso facto, evidence of anti-Republican bias. If I can get his permission, I’ll post it here.

UPDATE: For those interested, here is an R package by Kyle Campbell ’08 created for STAT 201 with some of the underlying data and some nice graphics.

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WikiHistory

College Archivist Sylvia Kennick Brown comments:

You’re one of a number of alumni who are dedicated enough to research aspects of Williams’ history and write up findings. Many alums work directly with the Archives to access the variety of documents among our holdings. Publication methods are various: Russ Carpenter just had his Field family research published in the Alumni review; another alum is working on the background history of some of the College songs and may be posting in our Williams History web section.

We were contacted this past year by the organizer of Willipedia about a Williams history section there also. I urged him to copy any of our historical essays that he thought might be of initial interest. What I realized, in thinking through Willipedia issues, was that our staff in the Archives was not going to have the time to fact-check all Willipedia entries and make comments. Thus we saw merit in keeping our History web site, since those essays have developed here and been double-checked for accuracy by our staff. In the end, it probably is good to have the two areas that can link back and forth to each other.

We’re in the process of a re-design of the entire Archives’ site/presence, and many changes are waiting in the wings. Among them, of course, are links to the Willipedia and online theses, as well as loading of a cache of essays that we’ve been working on for the past year or so. So stay tuned.

Great stuff! It has been a pleasure to work with Sylvia (and with Linda Hall and David Pilachowski) on a variety of historical projects over the years.

However, I think that Sylvia is wrong, both about what the future of Williams history should be and about what it will be. Currently, there are three main locations for Williams history on the web.

First are the various official sites, which I have tried to summarize. These are worthwhile and professional efforts, but they are hermeneutically sealed from the outside world. There is no easy way for outside amateurs (like me) or experts (like Russ Carpenter ’58 (pdf)) to easily fix and improve these articles.

Second is Willipedia’s history category. Although I like Willipedia and wish it well, I worry about its staying power. Is anyone still working on it? Does anyone care that alums like me still can’t contribute? I have done more than my fair share, but I just don’t see Willipedia as the future.

Third is Wikipedia. I just created a category for all the Williams College related articles. There isn’t much there now, but anyone who pays attention to Wikipedia can see that the future lies in this direction. I’ll soon be porting over all my fraternity related work to Wikipedia as well as adding other material. In the not too distant future, historians of Williams who want their work to be read and noticed will be sure that it ends up in Wikipedia.

What should happen? All Williams history efforts should be devoted to Wikipedia. Instead of our hidden history of Williams presidents, we should create a Wikipedia version. Other people will contribute; more readers will find it; the world will be a better place.

Will that happen anytime soon? Probably not. The College, like every organization, wants to maintain control of its history, wants to tell its story to the world in its own way. The last thing that Sylvia wants to do is have a Wikipedia WatchList with dozens of entries that she needs to monitor every day.

But it will happen. Wikipedia is the future of history. Get on-board now.

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Willipedia

The latest coolness for WSO is a wiki devoted to Williams. For those not familiar with Wikipedia, WSO notes that:

A Wiki is a site with many informative articles that anyone can edit. Feel free to contribute! We want this site to become a definitive source of information about Williams. Articles, biographies, stories, and how-to’s are welcome, and on nearly any subject: buildings, people, organizations, classes, computing, hiking, anything of, about, or near the college.

Ambitious. The entry for Amherst begins with:

A school filled with scalliwags, villains, and other low-lifes. They stole half of Williams College’s library when they began their misadventure, and they’ve only gone downhill from there.

Not bad, but Aidan could do a lot better . . .

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WSO Problems

WSO was down most of yesterday and is still having problems now.

WSO was hacked last night, or at least that’s when we found out about it. We are fixing it as fast as we can. Read below for details.

Our web server was compromised due to an exploit in awstats, a program that keeps track of web site traffic. (We have since uninstalled that program.)

Good luck to the smart and dedicated Ephs at WSO in fixing the problem. The service and infrastructure that they provide to the Williams commumity is just amazing.

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Monsoons in India

AB ’07 writes beautifully about the monsoons in India.

The monsoon clouds are identifiable since they are a good bit blacker than any others. They carry sea rain. And you can see this bank of cloud, stretching thousands of miles across the length and breadth of India and now moving rapidly towards you. And then the wind picks up (as it is just now) and the temp plummets. Then people come out of their houses and sit in their verandas. Leaves are kicked up and the birds fall silent.

Everyone knows whats going on and everyone is waiting. Then the thunder and lightning begin. And that’s when the smiling starts. And this is loud thunder — worse than anything heard in willytown. And then the thing to do is to go to a place where there is soil. Any garden, park whatever. And it starts raining.

And it doesn’t start slowly and it doesn’t creep up on you. It’s the definition of a cloudburst. Within seconds you are drenched. But you have time to see the first drops hit the ground. And its like hundreds and thousands of tiny little dark stars that form on the groundone second and then disappear, only to be replaced by more and more and more, till there are no more stars on the white earth but only a brown firmament. Then the monsoon get own to the arduous ask of throughly soaking the city, recharging both the aquifers and my hope in life.

Oh and the smell — its the most heavenly thing in the world. Its sweet and salty and erotic and fresh and renewing and fertile and pleasing and full of all the goodness of life. It’s the smell of the earth drinking — and its intoxicating. And it only lasts for a few hours — only the first few hours of the monsoon. But it is the most heavenly thing you can experience. And suddenly, everything is green, and everyone is happy (except motorists) and everything is alive and people are dancing in the rain. Life begins anew. The monsoons are back. The wind picks up my laughter — it floats over the city and rains down to get washed away again with the detritus of a city starved.

Read the whole thing.

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