I am having some back-and-forth with college officials about their decision to have “no virtual commencement” in June. (Readers may be surprised to discover how rarely I reach out to Williams. I save my capital for the really important issues! Indeed, this debate generated my first e-mail to Maud since her induction.) One official (not Maud!) notes that, among seniors:

There was almost no support for a virtual Commencement.

The people who run Williams are smart and experienced, which is why I agree with 99% of their decisions! (But such agreement makes for boring reading, which is why you see so little here.) But, on this topic, they are very, very wrong. Seniors and their families want something on June 7. But you don’t have to believe me! Just send this e-mail to the 500 seniors (and, separately, to their parents).

To the members of the class of 2020 and their parents:

As discussed, Williams is committed to celebrating your achievements in person, as soon as we are allowed to by Massachusetts state officials to do so. In the meantime, we are exploring options for June 7th. There are three possibilities:

1) No virtual events.

2) A video broadcast featuring speeches, performances and other celebrations. This would be viewable by all via the College’s Youtube channel.

3) A “Zoom Commencement” which would involve both joint broadcasts but also grouping students and, separately, families into Zoom breakout rooms for intimate conversations and visits from favorite faculty and staff.

If it is really true that there is “almost no support for a virtual Commencement,” then option 1) will win in a landslide. It is an empirical question.

My prediction is that at least 200 students (and the parents of at least half the students) would vote for option 3.

Would we all agree that, if 200 students/families wanted a Zoom Commencement, Williams should host one? Students who don’t want to participate don’t have to! Either way, we all agree that the College should/will host an in-person event in 2021.

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The decision to cancel Commencement is a mistake, the worst of Maud’s tenure. From the Record:

Yesterday, the College announced its decision to reschedule the commencement ceremony for the class of 2020 to an undetermined future date, ruling out the option to hold a virtual ceremony on June 7.

After the College cancelled in-person commencement at the start of the month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor of Chemistry and College Marshal Jay Thoman ’82 sent a survey to the class of 2020 asking their opinions on whether to organize virtual proceedings in June or a rescheduled ceremony in the future. The form had a two-thirds response rate among seniors, more than 90 percent of whom preferred a rescheduled in-person ceremony with traditional senior-week and class-day events.

“There seemed little support for a faux Commencement in June,” Thoman said. He explained that while no official commencement will happen this spring, the College is soliciting student comments for a few virtual celebrations during the first week of June.

1) There is no way to know if an in-person ceremony will be possible in 2021! If CV-19 is still around (and why wouldn’t it be?), odds are that Massachusetts will still be outlawing large gatherings.

2) Scores (hundreds?) of members of the class of 2020 (and their families) won’t be able to attend a ceremony in 2021, even if one is held.

3) There is no reason we can’t have both a virtual ceremony in June and an in-person ceremony in 2021. A virtual ceremony is free! It costs nothing beyond the time of the faculty/staff who organize it, time that Williams has already paid for.

4) It is possible to make a virtual ceremony meaningful. Here is a plan under discussion at a competing institution. It is excellent! Williams could do even better.

For all these reasons, it was absurd for Thoman/Williams to frame the question as a choice for the senior survey. Is the explanation incompetence? That is always my first guess! But never discount laziness. Whatever else is true, Jay Thoman and the other staff/faculty involved in graduation planning just saved themselves from having to do hundreds of hours of work this month . . .

Side note: The Record‘s coverage of this and other issues has been excellent all spring. Kudos to all involved! Full article below.

(more…)

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Mika Brzezinski ’89 is getting rave reviews for her interview of Joe Biden.

MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski was lauded on social media for her questioning of former Vice President Joe Biden about an allegation that he sexually assaulted a Senate aide in 1993.

Brzezinski questioned Biden for approximately 18 minutes on Friday, asking the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee if he assaulted former staffer Tara Reade, if he would give permission to the University of Delaware to release relevant records, and if he was guilty of hypocrisy given his statements during Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.

What do our readers think?

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I used some of my recent rash of free time to catch up on my reading of “The Williams Magazine.” I came across the “At a Glance” feature that offered this prompt: An Unexpected way an Eph impacted my life as an alum is…

I would complete it the following way: My first job after Williams was as a kindergarten assistant teacher. The lead teacher was an amazing teacher; to this day she is the best teacher I have ever seen in a classroom. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn what it was like to be a teacher by being alongside such a pro. The added advantage was that I didn’t have to handle any of the classroom management. I spent most of the year being the “fun” teacher, which I excelled at. However, when the the lead teacher took a week off for her wedding, I was in charge . . .  and things did not go well.

About a month later, I was talking to an Eph who had held my job the previous year. She offered the following advice, “Do not be afraid to tell the kids, “No” – they will still like you.” This simple but very true advice was the most important lesson I learned during my first year of teaching. It seems strange to say but this small interaction was a major step in my professional growth.

How would you complete: An Unexpected way an Eph impacted my life as an alum is…

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Latest from Professor Darel Paul:

The California roadmap is the latest in a long line of policies practically and symbolically distancing the Golden State from the rest of the country. California has long been the only state granted the right to maintain its own auto emissions standards. Since 2017 it has prevented state employees from traveling on official business to other states that, in the evaluation of its Attorney General, maintain legal “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” California is a self-declared “sanctuary state” limiting the degree to which state and local law enforcement may cooperate with federal immigration officials. In 2019 it began covering certain illegal immigrants in its state Medicaid program, and this year created a state-based coronavirus relief fund specifically for residents who are in the country unlawfully.

There is no doubt that California is both very peculiar and very large. Yet neither quality lends it the status of a nation, nor does it make California a state in the international legal sense of the term. Nonetheless one day it could become so, and the coronavirus pandemic is creating novel opportunities for California to travel down just such a path.

California has already begun to erase the distinction between resident and citizen. It allows non-citizens (both legal and illegal residents) to vote in some local elections, to serve on state government boards and committees, and to receive state-based coronavirus relief funds. A California with its own immigration policy on top of its own nascent sense of ‘residentship’ would be a California that has taken a real step toward independence. And much like the plurality of English voters now looking at Scotland’s continuing demands for independence, the rest of the United States could be perfectly willing to let such a California go.

I certainly would be. States’ rights forever!

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Oren Cass ’05 is the most important policy wonk on the right, if not in all of American politics. Latest evidence:

When Oren Cass announced a new conservative organization (American Compass) to advocate what is, essentially, a neo-Hamiltonian approach to economics, Senator Pat Toomey took to the citadel of Conservatism, Inc.—the Heritage Foundation—to describe it as a “dagger thrust into the heart” of the neoliberal consensus that has dominated the American Right.

Let’s thrust more daggers into that heart. Otherwise, we may wake up in ten years to the realization that we wasted the political moment of COVID-19 because we were obsessed with distractions: reopening a broken economy and whining at the Chinese instead of reforming a system in a way that would do damage to Chinese leadership—and the American elites who profit from them.

Indeed. Cass’s main (only?) flaw is his failure to recognize how much immigration negatively effects the aspects of American society he, correctly, cares so much about. Instead of staying connected to the Marco Rubio Eph Maphia, he should reach out to folks like Ron DeSantis and Kris Kobach. They are the future of conservative politics in the US.

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UPDATED:

I couldn’t listen in on the call, but abl did and kindly posted a summary in the comments.  I’ve reposted that summary here so that it is more widely seen.  Thank you abl!

*A decision will be made re next year by July;
*Maud has several committees working simultaneously on contingencies, to help Williams be in a position to make as good of a decision as possible based on as up-to-date information as possible;
*One option would be to do winter term in September and to shift everything else back accordingly;
*It sounds like it’s highly likely that there will be some online instruction happening under any scenario (for immunocompromised students who can’t go to campus, if nothing else);
*It doesn’t sound like there have been any layoffs/furloughs, and it sounds like Williams is optimistic about being able to avoid any in the future;
* Williams is financially well positioned to weather this. It sounds like a lot of schools, including a number in Williams’ peer group (broadly speaking), are not.

I received this email yesterday:

Greetings from Williamstown, Alumni Volunteers.

President Maud Mandel is holding an alumni phonecast tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28 at 2pm ET. She will be joined by Provost, Dukes Love; the conversation and question and answer period will be moderated by Tom Gardner ’79, President of the Society of Alumni. As a volunteer for Williams, you are automatically included in this opportunity to hear from college leadership. You will receive a phone call shortly before 2pm ET. You can simply decline the call if you’re not able to take part. You can also call (877) 251-0785 at any point between 2-3pm ET and join the call. We will provide a recording of the call for listening at your convenience at a later time.

If you have any questions for Maud and Dukes you’ll be able to ask on the call or you can share your question in advance by using the form here.

As always, thanks for all you do for Williams. We’re thinking of you now more than ever.

Best wishes,

Brooks

Brooks Foehl ’88

Curious to see what Maud has to say.  I will try report on what I hear.

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Why doesn’t Williams have something like the Harvard Q Guide?

The Q evaluations provide important student feedback about courses and faculty. Many questions are multiple choice, though there’s room for comments as well. The more specific a student can be about an observation or opinion, the more helpful their response. Q data help students select courses and supplement Harvard’s Courses of Instruction, shopping period visits to classes and academic advising.

Faculty take these evaluations seriously – more than half logged on to view their students’ feedback last spring within a day of the results being posted. The Q strengthens teaching and learning, ultimately improving the courses offered at Harvard.

All true. The Q Guide works wonderfully, both providing students with more information as they select their courses and encouraging (some) faculty to take their undergraduate pedagogy more seriously. Consider STAT 104, the (rough) Harvard equivalent of STAT 201 at Williams. The Q Guide provides three main sources of information: students ratings of the class, student ratings of the professor, and student comments:

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 11.25.38 AM

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 11.26.30 AM

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 11.24.22 AM

Background Information (comments welcome):

1) Williams has Factrak, a service which includes some student evaluations.
FT

See below the break for more images. Factrak is widely used and popular. Representative quote:

Factrack is super popular here — sigh is dead wrong. Any student serious about their classes spends some time on that site during registration periods. I’ve also found the advice on the website to be instructive. Of course, it takes some time to sort out who is giving levelheaded feedback and who is just bitter about getting a bad grade, but once you do there is frequently a bounty of information regarding a particular Prof’s teaching style.

2) Williams students fill out student course survey (SCS) forms, which include both numeric questions and allow for written comments. None of this information is made available to students.

3) Nothing prevents Williams, like Harvard, from distributing this information, either just internally (as Harvard does) or to the world art large. Reasonable modifications are possible. For example, Harvard allows faculty to decline to make the student comments public. (Such an option allows faculty to hide anything truly hurtful/unfair.) First year professors might be exempt. And so on. Why doesn’t Williams do this?

  • Williams is often highly insular. We don’t make improvement X because we have never done X, not because any committee weighed the costs/benefits of X.
  • Williams cares less about the student experience than you might think.
  • Williams does not think that students lack for information about courses/professors. A system like Harvard’s is necessary for a large university. It adds little/nothing to Williams.
  • Williams faculty are happy to judge students. They dislike being judged by students, much less having those judgments made public.

Assume you were a student interested in making this information available to the Williams community. Where would you start?

On a lighter note, EphBlog favorite Professor Nate Kornell notes:Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 2.35.50 PM

Factrak screenshots below the break:

(more…)

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Regardless of what the future holds, DDF’s post on Monday was a milestone in the life of Ephblog. While I plan a longer post in the future to share my thoughts, I wanted to offer my answer to question 3: Would you like Ephblog to continue? YES!! Ephblog is many things (engaging, thought provoking, informative, enraging – to name just a few) but regardless of how I feel about it on any given day, I will miss it when (if?) it goes away. Thanks to DDF and the many great contributors over the last 20+ years!

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My classmate Megan Bruck Syal works on how to defend the Earth from incoming planetary debris. In this new video, she does a backyard experiment about how the porosity of the asteroid would affect the way a projectile impacts it.

I’ve set the video to start at about the 8:30 mark, where she talks about majoring in astrophysics and mathematics in college, and also emphasizes the importance of all of the other courses — literature, history philosophy — that are an essential part of a liberal arts education.

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Williams graduation will be on-line. Zoom is a powerful platform. What advice do you have for College Marshall Jay Thoman ’82, the professor in charge of Commencement?

1) The more time spent in small groups, the better. The Zoom terminology is “Breakout Room.” The biggest challenge for Williams will be figuring out the default rooms to assign every graduate senior to. This is a good job for the senior class leadership. Basic idea is that every student must be assigned to a smallish (at least 3, no more than 10) core group, with whom she will spend most of the ceremony. Call this their “Home Room.” Roommates are the obvious grouping mechanism. But it is certainly possible that, say, all the female soccer players want to be together for the event.

2) In addition to these 100 or so Home Rooms (all run out of the main Zoom session), we need several dozen Gatherings, separate Zoom sessions where students can go to reunite with other seniors who share their interests. Almost every sports team will have such a room, as well as all the major student organizations. Some Gatherings will allow parent visitors. Some will be restricted to students. I suspect that many sports teams will have both, a Gathering for students and one for parents. All individual houses would also have a Gathering. We need a public spreadsheet which lists all of these so that students/parents can find them.

Also, there are separate Zoom Gatherings corresponding to each student Home Room. Many parents know the parents of their Eph’s roommates and will want to hang out in a parallel session.

3) Create a list of potential guests: faculty, coaches, staff and administrators. Then, ask the Home Rooms who they want to have visit them, if possible. Wouldn’t it be fun to have your favorite professor stop by your Zoom room for a quick hello?

4) Base Zoom limits attendees to 200 and only 50 breakout rooms. I think there is a ZoomXL version which could accommodate many more people. Does anyone have details?

5) Start time needs to be around 11:00 AM. Anything earlier is too tough on west coast students. Any later is impossible for Asia students.

6) We need a common “channel” which everyone can tune into. This might be broadcast into the main student Zoom, but it would need to exist publicly as well. Indeed, it might be cool to have several different channels — Twitch streams? — which feature a different sets of speakers.

Schedule

10:00: Main channel starts broadcasting fun content. Student produced videos. A Capella groups. Sports highlights. Student photos over the last four years.

10:30: Main student Zoom opens. (It is tough to run a 100+ person Zoom, but not impossible.) Might make sense to do this even earlier, in the same way that, in physical commencement, students are lining up for the march well before the start. Every five minutes in this main room, students are sent to their breakout rooms to chat with their friends, and then brought back together. (Big advantage of this is that it causes students who are alone in their rooms because their roommates have not showed up yet to text those sleepy roommates and tell them to Log On Now!)

11:00: Event begins with some digital equivalent of a student procession. Still pondering what that would be!

11:15: College Marshall Jay Thoman ’82, speaking on the main channel, welcomes everyone and provides an overview of the day’s events. (Of course, a written description with every detail has been distributed to students and families ahead of time.)

11:20: President Mandel speaks briefly.

11:30: Students are sent to their Home Rooms. Visitors — at least one or two of the faculty/staff who they requested — come by to visit and chat. This is the heart of graduation in the era of CV-19. At the same time, families have a choice: hear a speech from someone on the main channel or go to the Gatherings where they can chat amongst themselves.

11:45: Students are brought back from their Home Rooms into the main session. (The great advantage of Zoom is that this is easy to do.) The traditional three student speeches are given on the main channel, but each is restricted to five minutes or less.

12:00: Students sent back to Home Rooms. Again, this period, this private time with your closest friends and visits from those faculty/staff who know you best, is what makes the whole event work. More visitors come by.

12:15: Back to the main room for the big speech. Again, everything on Zoom is much more boring than it is in real life, so this speech must be short, no more than 15 minutes.

12:30: Back to Home Rooms, but with the option to leave the Home Room and visit one of the Gatherings. This would be the time for all the seniors who work on the Record, for example, to get together, even though they have different Home Rooms.

12:45: Back from the awarding of degrees. Not sure how to do this yet.

1:00: Commencement ends. Of course, students/families/faculty/staff need a way to hang out afterwards — similar to the milling around on Chapin Lawn which occurs after the normal commencement — but I have not worked out the best mechanism for that yet.

What advice do you have for Professor Jay Thoman?

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Most of the posts and discussions on EphBlog about the coronavirus and COVID-19 have (understandably) focused on the College.  But Williamstown is more than just Williams, and issues relating to COVID-19 are facing the broader community right now.  I saw this article about testing the staff at Williamstown Commons, a nursing home and rehabilitation facility located just east of the College off of Rt. 2.  The article explains that the entire staff of the facility was tested, and that 5 staff members, who were asymptomatic, tested positive:

With state testing guidelines loosening to acknowledge asymptomatic cases, all staff at Williamstown Commons have now been tested, revealing five so far without symptoms.

Some 73 residents have tested positive, according to Lisa Gaudet, communications vice president for Berkshire Healthcare Systems, which owns the nursing home. Of the 73, 15 have died, 17 have recovered, 35 remain in the nursing home’s COVID-19 unit, and six are at the hospital receiving higher-level care.

Test results for an additional 15 staffers are still pending, Gaudet said, and results for 102 more came back negative.

The results here show the risks of infection which come with dense living conditions, as would be experienced in a nursing home or a residential college setting.  Large numbers of residents at Williamstown Commons are infected (73), and at least 5 staff members are as well.  Its not at all clear to how it will be possible to avoid significant infection rates, particularly amongst students, when the College reopens.  On the plus side, from this study so far 102 staff members did not test positive, and they are likely in fairly close contact with infected persons, though hopefully using protective gear and fairly stringent protocols to avoid infection, protocols which might be difficult for students to follow every day.

This kind of data is interesting as the College considers whether to reopen for the fall semester.

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I am writing this post in the hours before the Reunion Parade on June 8, 2019. It appears today. My current plan is to retire from EphBlog 1,000 days from now, January 3, 2023, twenty years exactly after starting this adventure, and about 35 years after this photo was taken.

” . . . knows everything else about the campus . . .”

As true then as it is now?

;-)

1) Would EphBlog go on without me? Probably not. Any volunteers to take over?

2) I reserve the right to revisit this decision.

3) If you would like EphBlog to continue, then let me know below.

Why retire?

1) I have said most of what I wanted to say, solved the puzzles I wanted to solve. Why keep repeating myself?

2) I am tired. Blogging every day is a young Eph’s game!

3) I have other avenues for getting my academic fix. Now that I am college faculty, I want to spend more time on my students, my classes, and my university. That leaves less time for Williams.

4) Williams College, as an institution — and most of the people who run it — dislike EphBlog. Hate is a strong word, but lots of people hate us. Life is too short to be hated.

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Many readers thought we were crazy to give 50/50 odds, back on March 17, that Williams would still be closed for the fall semester. How do you like those odds now? President Mandel’s decision to re-open (or not) in September is the most important made by a Williams leader in at least 50 years. So, let’s spend a week discussing it!

What will America/Massachusetts/Williamstown do?

The third reason — after likely student and peer college behavior —- for bringing students back to campus in September is that the government is unlikely to forbid it, or even to be against it. Trump, obviously, wants the economy to restart as soon as possible. Williamstown will do whatever the College wants. Governor Baker is a bit of a wild-card. Certain state restrictions about large gatherings might be in force even in September. But, even there, I am sure that Baker wants to allow colleges to re-open.

Contrary opinions?

Again, what do you think Maud will do? Place your bets!

What do you think she should do?

Could some of our active commentators please provide answers to these questions?

I think Williams should open. I predict Williams will open.

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Many readers thought we were crazy to give 50/50 odds, back on March 17, that Williams would still be closed for the fall semester. How do you like those odds now? President Mandel’s decision to re-open (or not) in September is the most important made by a Williams leader in at least 50 years. So, let’s spend a week discussing it!

What is the causal effect on mortality of reopening Williams in September?

There are two possible states of the world in the fall: Williams reopens the campus or not. With reopening, some people will die. With continued closure, some (mostly) different people will die. Under which scenario would deaths be higher? Hard to know!

1) Death, especially among young people, is very random. There is, tragically, probably an Eph who might be killed by a car near her home in October who would have lived if the campus were to open. And, conversely, an Eph who wil die if Williams re-opens but who would have been safe at home if we stayed closed.

2) Deaths from CV-19 among Williams students are very unlikely, regardless of whether or not the College reopens. Are they a bit more likely if we do reopen? Perhaps. But I would view that difference in expected deaths as too small matter. Banning students from having cars would probably, in expectation, save even more lives, and we are not going to do that.

3) Deaths among non-students in Williamstown, both College employees and local residents, would probably be higher. How could they not be? And not only deaths caused by CV-19! Although I don’t know of a case in which a student has directly caused a death of a resident via a car crash or some other tragedy, in expectation, those are real risks. And similar risks, presumably higher, are associated with a student infecting a resident with CV-19. But, at the same time, student-caused risks go where the students are. So, when Maud brings student X to Williams, increasing the risk of death in Williamstown, she decreases (by the same amount?) the expected deaths in the place where student X used to be.

Informed commentary is still welcome! Just how much would reopening increase the risk of illness/death for our 300+ faculty members? I am not sure. But the amount, I suspect, is small enough that Williams will reopen, perhaps fairly strict rules about mask-wearing and social distancing on campus.

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Many readers thought we were crazy to give 50/50 odds, back on March 17, that Williams would still be closed for the fall semester. How do you like those odds now? President Mandel’s decision to re-open (or not) in September is the most important made by a Williams leader in at least 50 years. So, let’s spend a week discussing it!

Will other colleges reopen?

Yes, many (most?) will.

It was easy for elite colleges to close in March. All of them were doing it, so there was no (immediate) penalty for doing so, and a real risk associated with not doing it. But September will be different because the recession (depression?) will start to bite. Even fancy NESCAC schools like Bates and Connecticut College are not that wealthy, with a per-student endowment only about 1/8th of ours. They need tuition dollars or things get ugly fast. The same is even more true for the hundreds of liberal arts colleges in the tier below NESCAC. If there is a good chance that too many students would take a gap year if confronted with a virtual-only experience, they have no choice but to open their campuses, subject to local laws and regulation.

And this is all the more so for isolated colleges in rural locations. They can institute and enforce much more serious social distancing and other rules than their city counterparts. Will those policies be successful? Who knows? But the assumption/possibility that such policies will work allows institutional leadership to do what needs doing anyway.

Contrary opinions?

This is the second reason why Williams should open: most other rural liberal arts colleges will.

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The Director’s Cup – designed to recognize the top overall collegiate sports programs in the US – has been awarded for NCAA Division III programs since the 1995-96 academic year.  So prior to this year, it had been awarded 24 times to a Division III college.

Williams has won the award 22 times.

That is an almost unbelievable statistic.  Regardless of what anyone might think of the Director’s Cup, how its awarded, or what it signifies, to win it 22 of 24 times is an amazing achievement.  This long-sustained run has been carried forward by generations of students, coaches, and administrators.  The only two years that Williams did not win were 1997-98 (when UC-San Diego won and Williams finished 4th) and 2011-12 (when Middlebury won and Williams finished 3rd).

But Williams will not win this year.  With the cancellation of essentially all spring sports, and the failure to complete the playoffs for many winter sports, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), which administers the competition, voted to cancel the competition for the 2019-20 academic year.  Through the fall sports season, Williams was in 10th place, approximately 238 points behind Johns Hopkins.  Would the Ephs had rallied to win a 23rd Director’s Cup?  Impossible to say, of course, but last year Williams finished the fall season in 7th place, 208 points behind Hopkins, so its certainly possible that the Ephs might have won again this year.  Without a detailed breakdown of the remaining sports and how good the various Williams teams were, it would seem bold to bet against Williams, based on past history.

In any event, Williams will be the defending champion for the 2020-21 year (assuming that the season takes place as planned), with a chance to make it 23 of 25 years as the winners!

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Many readers thought we were crazy to give 50/50 odds, back on March 17, that Williams would still be closed for the fall semester. How do you like those odds now? President Mandel’s decision to re-open (or not) in September is the most important made by a Williams leader in at least 50 years. So, let’s spend a week discussing it!

What will students do?

If Williams is open, students will come. They know that they are safe, or at least about as safe as they would be wherever they are. And, as much as they love their parents, 6 months at home will have been enough.

If Williams is still virtual, then things get weird/ugly very fast, as we discussed last month. I doubt that Williams has the stomach to play hardball with admitted first years, as we advised. I don’t see the College having any power at all over upperclassmen. Would 50 students take a gap year? 500 hundred? Informed speculation welcome. But, the key issue from today’s perspective is that Williams needs to make a decision before it knows those details. And, if we just open, we won’t ever know how bad things would have been if we had closed. In that way, it is like pandemic fighting! Successful prudent behavior will, after the fact, seem like needless panic.

We might wait till July — as a smaller college we can be more nimble than big universities — and find out what, say, Brown’s initial experience is if they announce a virtual-only plan in May. We might use anonymous surveys. We might have staff simply call up hundreds of students.

This is one reason why I am in favor of opening. Students will come if we do. If we don’t, there is the potential for real disaster.

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Many readers thought we were crazy to give 50/50 odds, back on March 17, that Williams would still be closed for the fall semester. How do you like those odds now? President Mandel’s decision to re-open (or not) in September is the most important made by a Williams leader in at least 50 years. So, let’s spend a week discussing it!

Whether you think that our political leaders — people like President Trump, Governor Baker. Senator Warren, Congressman Richard Neal and Williamstown Select Board Chair Jeffrey Thomas — are fools or heroes, they are what they are. There is no evidence that they have the ability to get CV-19 under control. If even highly organized countries like Japan and Singapore are failing, we have no chance. (Would any EphBlog reader disagree with that forecast?)

So, today and in June and in September, there will still be hundreds (thousands? tens of thousands?) of people in the US (and in the world and in Massachusetts) newly infected, and highly contagious. That is inevitable. There may be better treatments. The hospitals may not be overflowing. Yet death will still stalk the land.

Before we dive into the details over the next week, I want both your forecasts and your advice. What do you think Maud will do? What do you think she should do?

Again, I don’t know what Maud will do. But, the more that I ponder where we will be, the more that I think the best choice is to re-open Williams.

Photo courtesy of Martin Kohout ’81.

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From Inside Higher Ed (paywall):

The Education Department is beginning to disperse the $14 billion set aside for higher education in the stimulus package passed by Congress two weeks ago, beginning with $6 billion in funds for institutions to give students through emergency grants.

It’s unclear how colleges will be allowed to use their funding, although it sounds like Betsy DeVos is giving schools a lot of discretion in this regard.

So how much is Williams getting?  Inside Higher Ed has a nifty look-up tool (paywall).  I’ve copied Williams’ award below:

I suspect Williams will be just fine, but it’s worth noting that the general consensus in higher ed is that the $14 billion set aside in the CARES act will not be nearly enough.  Higher ed associations “had asked for $50 billion and said in a letter to congressional leaders Thursday that they need an additional $47 billion.”

I have mixed feelings about money of this nature going to a school like Williams.  What are your thoughts about federal rescue money being used to support public or private universities (and their students) more generally?  It’s worth noting that the $14 billion that’s been allocated so far is a small fraction of the amount allocated to support for-profit business.

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From the Wall Street Journal:

Two Separate Questions

There’s an important distinction between what universities are obligated to provide their students and what students paid for when we enrolled. The cost of college consists of room and board, tuition and other fees. Handling room and board is straightforward because universities’ obligations and students’ expectations are aligned. When we eat the school’s meals and use its dorms, we’re getting what we paid for. If we’ve been sent home, then we’re not, and we’re entitled to a partial refund.

Tuition is more challenging. “Payment for instruction,” its definition, only captures a university’s bare-bones obligation. Students and schools alike recognize that the true value of college extends far beyond formal teaching in classrooms. Flip through any college brochure, and you’ll find an extensive guide to the opportunities that make families willing to stomach the eye-popping cost.

The life lessons we learn through sports, clubs and other campus groups; the social bonds we form with our peers; the education we receive from classmates who come from different backgrounds and expose us to new perspectives. Tuition payments don’t require colleges to provide these opportunities, but the schools promise them and students expect them as part of the package.

Remote learning lets universities fulfill their basic obligations to students. They’re still providing the best instruction possible given the circumstances, and therefore don’t owe students a refund for tuition. But make no mistake—students are not getting what we paid for.

—Mark Bissell, Williams College, economics and computer science

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Latest Amherst controversy:

EphBlog is torn! On one hand, we love nothing more than to bathe in Amherst tears.

On the other hand, we have major doubts about this portrayal of the facts. You really think that is the full story? That these lacrosse bros were just wondering around and happened, totally randomly, to shout these slurs outside the door of their African American teammate? I doubt it! Call me crazy, but there is more going on here . . . Or are you so naive that you still believe the racist graffiti Prospect House hoax?

See (pdf) for a permanent copy of the document from which the above excerpt is draw.

From the Daily Hampshire Gazette:

Amherst College has placed its nationally ranked men’s lacrosse program on probation for the 2021 spring season and fired head coach Jon Thompson following a racially charged incident earlier this month.

The incident that sparked the punishment was first reported by the Amherst Student on March 11. According to its report, members of the men’s lacrosse team chanted the n-word at a black lacrosse player, who then punched one of his teammates who was using the term.

In a letter to the Amherst College community signed by President Biddy Martin, Catherine Epstein, provost and dean of the faculty, and athletic director Don Faulstick, the school pointed out that the incident was just the latest in a pattern of troubling behavior surrounding the program.

The school is making itself ineligible for the 2021 postseason under the probation and has banned formal team gatherings until Nov. 1, which includes any player-run practices or other team-bonding activities.

Best part:

The letter described several other incidents that led to a decision of this nature.

One of those incidents was team members exchanging messages in a popular texting app, GroupMe, that were “denigrating and ridiculing” transgender and gender-nonconforming staff members. The letter also noted that members of the program were responsible in the past for vandalism in dorms and putting an undue burden on campus custodial services.

If you ridicule someone, you probably ought to be put in jail. Why hasn’t Biddy Martin contacted the FBI and reported this horrific hate crime?

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Colleen Farrell (’10), now a resident physician at NYU, had an op-ed (paywall) in the Washington Post this past week:

Normally, the intensive-care-unit floor of my hospital is divided into different types of ICUs: There is a cardiac ICU for patients with heart attacks, a neurosurgical ICU for patients with bleeding in their brains, a trauma ICU for patients who have been hit by buses and a medical ICU for patients with breathing problems.

Now there is only the covid-19 ICU. It takes up the entire floor, and soon it will overflow. I work there, as a resident physician training in critical care. And it is a chilling place.

It’s a nice piece and worth a read.  Of course, none of this was inevitable, although our preparation failures of January and February are pretty baked in at this point.

That said, there is still time to avert a worse catastrophe.  If you’re under a stay-at-home order or advisory, stay at home.  The worst thing that we can do now is to cripple our economy without also reaping all of the accompanying public health benefits, which is exactly what happens when businesses are closed but folks still visit friends and family.

It’s also worth noting that this crisis is going to continue for a lot longer unless we get our collective testing and tracking gear in game quickly.  The best case scenario at this point is probably tamping down the rate of infection enough by mid-to-late-summer that we can start cautiously re-opening parts of the economy — but that requires an effective and quick-acting testing/tracking program.  I’m astonished by how unprepared we were in February or even March for a problem that was clearly months in the making, and all sorts of state and federal officials must be held accountable.  But at this point, it is most important to look forward to the late summer, to make sure that we’re ready to re-open things as soon as possible.  Right now, we are not — and it won’t just be the victims of covid-19 and the accompanying recession who will suffer, but also the front-line workers like Colleen.

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Solid letter from Maud to alumni last Friday. I appreciate the shout-out to Dr. Craig Smith ’70, an EphBlog favorite.

To the Williams alumni family,

Earlier today I sent a community-wide message, a copy of which you will find below, announcing the decision to cancel this spring’s in-person commencement and alumni reunion. However disappointing, the news is unlikely to come as a surprise, and we can now begin looking at alternate ways to honor your milestones. I will enjoy celebrating them with you in any format.

While I have been communicating steadily with students, faculty, staff and families about the college’s effort to address and respond to the huge challenges posed by COVID-19 (you can read those messages here), this message, even with the sad news about reunion, gives me a welcome opportunity to speak with you directly for the first time during the pandemic.

First and foremost, I want you to know I have been thinking about you and your fellow alumni even more than usual these last few months. Each of you is in some way joined in the fight against this pandemic: some as frontline healthcare providers or public health experts, others as policymakers and advocates for the sick and vulnerable, and all of you as family members and friends caring for people around you. My heart and gratitude go out to you all.

I hesitate to single out any one person’s work amidst so much dedication. But there is inspiration and wisdom to be found in the blog of Dr. Craig Smith ’70, chair of surgery and surgeon-in-chief at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Hospital. Dr. Smith’s writings, published from a tragic center of the COVID-19 crisis, evince a spirit of compassion, wisdom and leadership that can make us all proud to count him as a member of our Williams family.

Second, I want you to know that, no matter where you are in the world or what your circumstances, your college is a community to which you can turn for support. For many of you, your Williams friends and connections are already helping you weather these exceptional times. Our duty is to help facilitate those connections when we can. To that end, I invite you to explore the list of COVID-19 resources collected for you by our Alumni Relations team. It includes links to social media channels, a growing list of resources offered by fellow alumni, and a form that you can use to share additional resources that you think would be helpful. I also encourage you to look at EphLink, the college’s online career mentoring platform, which offers a great way to support undergrads and your fellow alumni. However you prefer to engage, thank you for doing what you can to support each other and your college.

Sadly, we have begun to hear about members of our Williams alumni family who have lost their lives because of COVID-19. The situation is heartbreaking, and my condolences go out to the loved ones of those who have passed away or are ill. More than at almost any other time in our recent history, this feels like a moment when we need reaffirm our bonds and support each other as a community.

Reunions help strengthen those bonds. And while we unfortunately cannot reunite on campus in June, college staff are already thinking about other ways to bring us together. We will aim to confirm any new plans once we regain a stable sense of the future—a level of normalcy that is hard to imagine right now, but which will come in due course. When it does, it will give us yet another reason to honor and celebrate this great Williams family of ours.

Until then, I wish you good health and strength from Williamstown,

Maud

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Full letter from Maud below. The decision was inevitable. I was struck by this passage:

My heart goes out especially to the class of 1970, whose own senior spring term was canceled due to protests over the bombing of Cambodia, and who are now having their 50th reunion disrupted by a global pandemic.

1) I don’t know this history as well as I should. I know that there was a student strike, but was the “senior spring term” really “cancelled.” What about the other students? Junior spring term went on fine, but not senior spring term. How is that even possible?

2) There is a great senior thesis to be written, tying events at Williams across this 50 year divide. Indeed, kudos to Maud, the historian, for making that connection.

Williams students, families, faculty and staff,

Over the last few weeks Williams has been assessing the question of whether or not to hold commencement and reunion, in light of the pandemic’s progress and impact. I have decided, reluctantly and with significant disappointment, that the college cannot safely hold a traditional in-person Williams commencement or reunion in June.

Every year I share in the joy of seniors who are celebrating the successful completion of their Williams education, and their excitement about embarking on their next adventures. Seeing the delight of parents and families, who have supported their students in remarkable ways, is equally moving. A week later, I welcome alumni who are returning from adventures of their own. We often say Williams is more than a campus: it is a worldwide community. Commencement and reunion together demonstrate this truth.

Seniors, while I am heartbroken that graduation cannot happen in the conventional way at the conventional time, I am determined that you will have your moment. Rather than deciding for you what that should look like, my colleagues and I want to start by asking you. Following this message, you will receive an email from College Marshal and J. Hodge Markgraf Professor of Chemistry Jay Thoman ’82, with a questionnaire you can use to share your ideas. Your responses will help inform our thinking about the options.

While the result almost certainly will not look exactly like a traditional graduation, Professor Thoman and all of us are determined to create something memorable and meaningful. Seniors,please complete the questionnaire and tell us what that might look like for you.

Alumni will shortly receive a separate note from me about Reunion 2020. Our colleagues in the Office of College Relations are going to work with the classes of the “aughts and fives,” including our 25th and 50th reunion classes, on alternate ways to get together. My heart goes out especially to the class of 1970, whose own senior spring term was canceled due to protests over the bombing of Cambodia, and who are now having their 50th reunion disrupted by a global pandemic. I promise that we will find other ways to celebrate these milestone anniversaries, which are so important to alumni and college alike.

You have no idea how much I wish we could come together in the customary ways, to celebrate as a community. But I am confident that we can work together creatively to make the most of even this unprecedented challenge. Seniors, I hope you will share your thoughts and hopes via the questionnaire. Together, we will craft celebrations befitting the great class of 2020 and all our reunion classes.

Wishing you and your families all the best in the weeks ahead,

Maud

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This post was originally written 15 years ago. More true today than ever?

In the era of CV-19 and remote learning, where is the Log?

—————————

What is the stupidest, most out of touch statement by a senior faculty member to be published in the Record in the last year? Good question! Given all the misrepresentations concerning anchor housing, the competition is a tough one. But I am going with this.

To bring discussion [on racial incidents] to a more public arena, Schapiro and Roseman are hosting an open forum in Griffin at 8:30 p.m. tonight. Roseman said she felt that WSO blogs are ultimately limited in lasting value, despite the good content they sometimes contain. “They’re not really a dialogue,” she said. “They always degenerate over time.”

Pathetic. Roseman was also reported to refer to “blog” as a “four letter word” — i.e., something that she thought was not just useless but positively harmful.

First, does Roseman even read the WSO blogs? In other interviews, she has claimed not to. How can she know that they are “not really a dialogue” if she doesn’t read them regularly? How does she know that they “always” degenerate? Now, she is under no obligation to read the blogs, but if she is ignorant on the topic she has no business being insulting.

Second, the WSO blogs have many, many examples of incredibly lucid and subtle dialogue. Consider Katherine Dieber ’07 on campus racism:

In my opinion, the crime is not fearing, but letting that fear dictate actions. I’m always questioning whether or not I’m subconsciously racist or afraid, and if that’s the deeper reason for the way I interact with people of different backgrounds. Here’s my confession: I question most my interactions with black people. I wonder if I should be taking bigger steps to blend white American culture with black American culture, and this sort of worry colors my interactions with black people (until/unless I get to know them fairly well). Frankly, I’m intimidated. Am I the privileged white kid that black kids see as their enemy, or at least opposite?

Or Nick Greer ’08 on the Odd Quad:

We’ve built our own culture, we built the kind of tightly-knit “cluster” that you want for yourself, but one that excludes you. We built a culture that accepts even the most socially awkward. First years that have already given up on their entry? They’re in Currier common room hanging with us. People like you Kati- I mean Jessica, you make up 80% of this campus so from your perspective clusters aren’t that bad. I mean you may share a bathroom with that frumpy girl who plays D&D but it’s not like she hangs out with you or anything. No, Friday nights when your cluster is having another OC party she’s in her room. Oh, you’re so nice, you’ll invite her to come? Well she’s not interested, she hates you remember. Not everyone on campus likes that sort of thing and when you assume everyone on campus is like you, you exclude the people who are not.

Or Diana Davis ’07 on athletics at Williams:

My childhood friend, who is a year younger than I, looked at Williams when she was considering her college choices. She plays the oboe and the piano, sings, dances, acts, and does all sorts of wonderful things, but she is not an athlete. On her tour, she and her dad report that her tour guide repeated three times the impressive statistic that Williams wins 77% of its games. She was turned off by this athletic focus, and nothing I said could get her to reconsider and apply to Williams. This is sad. Are we alienating many such prospective students? Look on the bright side — that leaves more spots for athletes!

Or Cassandra Montenegro ’06 on Queer Bash pornography.

i didn’t know what to expect going into my first queer bash, but it wasn’t that. i was in no way warned. i dressed up for (what i was told was) the semester’s best party and left feeling the victim. i was so confused as why someone would do that to me–with no concern for my feelings. i couldn’t ‘just look away’ if i didn’t like it, like my friends told me to do. it was more than that, it was the principle. why porn? why on a screen? why at a campus party?

If Roseman doesn’t think that this sort of writing — and the larger dialogues in which they are embedded on the blogs — is the heart and soul of what a Williams education should be, then she is an idiot. More importantly, dozens of similar examples are available for all to see.

Third, it’s not that similar dialogues don’t occur over Mission lunches and late night pizza, just as they did 30 years ago. There are few better parts of a Williams education than the talks/arguments you have with your fellow Ephs. But the blogs provide an extra dimension that we lacked back in the day. They give students a chance to think for a moment about what they want to say, to pause and reflect on the opinions of others. The blogs are not a substitute for other dialogue, they are a complement.

Fourth, any regular blog reader will tell you that the blogs have two big advantages over in-person dialogues. First, they often bring together Ephs who don’t know each other well, who don’t share a dorm or classroom together. Second, they provide a way for the rest of us to listen in, to learn from the conversations among our fellow Ephs.

Why is Roseman so blind to the benefits that the blogs bring to Williams? Tough to know, but I’ll freely speculate. I think that there is a certain kind of administrator who does not really trust the students, who thinks that any discussion on a controversial topic needs to be supervised and moderated. This sort of administrator likes campus forums and classroom discussions because some adult is in control, someone is running the show. For this sort of person, the blogs are anarchic, out of control, always degenerating, making more trouble. A real dialogue includes a teacher, a Socratic figure who guides the benighted students.

Blogs are messy. They aid the students in doing for themselves what the College is unable and, often, unwilling to do for them. They represent a loss of control for Hopkins Hall.

I don’t know if Roseman is this sort of administrator. Perhaps there is some other explanation for her ridiculous comments. But, regardless of the explanation, the messiness is here to stay. The Dean of the College today has much less control over conversation on campus than the Dean did 20 years ago. Nothing can stop that trend from continuing. Embrace the Blog, Dean Roseman. We are the future.
—————————

Fifteen years later, we have some updates.

1) Nancy Roseman, being an idiot, was an utter failure as Dickinson’s president. Where is she now?

2) Williams students are still discussing things, but those discussions are less open and inviting, more narrow and restricted.

A well-run school would urge WSO to bring back Discussions and make them readable by all. In fact, if WSO is too atrophied for that to happen, Maud should have OIT do it. Given that they have all the login information, it is a one-day job, at most.

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Professor Darel Paul commands our attention again.

Have you been paying attention to EphBlog on this topic? You should have been. Recall where we were on February 25th:

Long-time readers will not be surprised to know that the EphBlog bunker is well-prepped for pandemic mayhem. Have you replenished your supplies recently?

The two previous pieces in this area have been as prescient. Read them. Where are we now?

Any geographic area — any village, town, city, county, or country — can allow either open migration from the outside or freedom of internal movement. You can’t have both, or you will, unavoidably, be on the way to widespread infection. Only walls of some sort can stop the descent to herd immunity, and a million or more American deaths.

Paul understands that, of course. What he fails to see, however, is that limiting internal movement enough to matter in the US is impossible.

First, our governing class is incompetent. Second, our country is too wide open. How could the governor of Pennsylvania, even if he wanted to, close all the border crossings with New York State? Third, our politics are broken. Even if Trump tried to create internal borders, the Democrats would go crazy.

My recommendation to Trump is the same now as it was on March 14. Close the borders to the outside world. (We are now 90% (98%?) of the way there anyway.) Would that matter much to the course of the infection? I don’t know. But it can only help. It is also the best way for Trump to increase his odds of re-election. (I am honestly interested in contrary opinions to this claim.)

What will happen? I don’t know. On some dimensions, I am more optimistic than I was three weeks ago. Who would have predicted, say, California’s ability to stop the exponential growth of infections? Some treatments seem promising. Bill Gates is doing amazing work with vaccine production. On other dimensions, things are much worse. CV-19 is now everywhere. Even with closed borders, it might be impossible to find every carrier. Cases will explode again in the fall, just as they did with the Spanish Flu, for which the second wave was much deadlier than the first.

And what would that mean for Williams, come September 2020?

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This is the most complimentary article about an Eph in a major publication in years.

The Pandemic’s Most Powerful Writer Is a Surgeon
Dr. Craig Smith started writing a daily update to his colleagues. They’re no longer his only readers. His emails have become essential dispatches from the front lines.

Dr. Craig Smith sits down at his computer each day in a hospital under siege and starts typing.

His note to the Columbia University department of surgery on the evening of March 20 began with the latest, grimmest statistics from the coronavirus pandemic: the positive tests, the disappearing beds, masks and ventilators, the curve too stubborn to bend. It was an email that would’ve been crushing if he’d stopped there. He didn’t.

“So what can we do?” Smith continued. “Load the sled, check the traces, feed Balto, and mush on. Our cargo must reach Nome. Remember that our families, friends, and neighbors are scared, idle, out of work, and feel impotent. Anyone working in health care still enjoys the rapture of action. It’s a privilege! We mush on.”

That last paragraph about a dog sled racing to beat another epidemic nearly a century ago is the reason his colleagues are no longer his only readers. The daily notes of this 71-year-old surgeon, which are now published on Columbia’s website and shared widely on social media, have become essential dispatches for many people in search of leadership, courage and maybe even a pep talk. Dr. Smith’s emails are Winston Churchill’s radio speeches of this war.

Read the whole thing. More on Balto.

Balto (1919 – March 14, 1933) was a Siberian Husky and sled dog who led his team on the final leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, in which diphtheria antitoxin was transported from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nenana, Alaska, by train and then to Nome by dog sled to combat an outbreak of the disease.

Do we get to credit Smith’s Williams education for such a perfect metaphor? Back to the article.

Smith is an elegant, almost poetic writer. The chairman of the department balances sobering data with a deft literary touch, quoting sources as disparate as John Wooden and Emily Dickinson. When he delivered the presidential address for the American Association for Thoracic Surgery in 2012, he opened and closed his lecture with meditations on a Yeats poem.

In response to an interview request, he replied: “I’d rather let the written messages to my colleagues speak for themselves.”

The grandson of two physicians, Smith was a self-described lackluster student, so convinced that he was the “last student to be accepted” in his Williams College class that he didn’t buy a school T-shirt until he survived the first semester, according to a 2015 article in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

EphBog readers first met Smith 16 years ago when he operated on former President Clinton.

You don’t have to be a literary critic to appreciate his style. But it doesn’t hurt if you happen to be one.

Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt says Smith’s notes have a “certain dark fascination” that reminds him of “A Journal of the Plague Year” by Daniel Defoe, and Columbia scholar Andrew Delbanco says his writing is so evocative that he feels as if he knows him through reading him.

“Candid, clear, concrete, his sentences cut straight to the heart of the matter: the staggering scale of the emergency and the equally staggering courage of those who are rising to meet it,” Delbanco wrote in an email. “Straight talk has been as scarce as masks and ventilators lately, but Dr. Smith talks straight.”

Smith writes like a bartender. For every shot, there’s a chaser. He ended his note on Sunday, when hundreds in New York had died of this new disease, by reflecting on the explorers who traversed Africa in the 1800s and lost half of their team over the course of the journey.

“They managed to bring 108 souls home,” Smith wrote. “It would have been 105, except that 3 children were born on the journey and survived to the end.”

Once again he’d found hope in despair.

“Life,” Dr. Smith wrote, “finds a way.”

Let us pray it does.

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Adam Schlesinger ’89 passed away from COVID-19 on April 1st in Poughkeepsie, NY.   Schlesinger enjoyed great commercial success with Fountains of Wayne, but also played in numerous other bands, and won 3 Emmy awards and a Grammy award for songs used in television.  As written in an article reporting his death:

Schlesinger’s career extended well beyond his work in bands. He had a hand in many of the songs that populated the critically beloved TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and he won three Emmys — one for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and two, both with David Javerbaum, for co-writing songs performed in Tony Awards telecasts. With Javerbaum, Schlesinger was nominated for two Tonys (both for 2008’s Cry-Baby) and won a Grammy for A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!.

A versatile songwriter with a gift for straddling genres and musical eras, Schlesinger wrote frequently for film, with credits ranging from three songs in the romantic comedy Music and Lyrics to the Oscar-nominated title track to Tom Hanks’ 1996 film That Thing You Do!.

I was at Williams at the same time as Schlesinger, but I never knew him, or his Fountains of Wayne partner Chris Collingwood.  I wonder if they ever played publicly (separately or together) while they were in the Purple Valley?  Do any readers know?

Schlesinger must have been one of the better known Eph musicians/artists in recent decades, and he will be missed.  Condolences to his family and friends.

 

UPDATE: My friends Ellen Waggett and Tim Sullivan, both (infinitely) more musically and artistically gifted than me, have both posted on Facebook about their friendships with Schlesinger while we were all students during the late 1980’s.  This news will obviously will hit some pretty hard on a personal level.

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Professor Nate Kornell tweeted a link to this article:

Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college’s academic mission, all the more so as students were scattered around the world by the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams College president Maud Mandel confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. “As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Mandel, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus.

This year, the one idea will center around the benefits of immigration, especially undocumented, from formerly colonized countries. The College will explore this one idea through a required reading of Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario ’82, via the Williams Reads program.

Developed by the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC), Williams Reads is an initiative offered as an opportunity for us to explore a book together that will help us to celebrate and deepen our appreciation of diversity.

Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom noted that “Although we appreciate diversity quite deeply at Williams, we can never appreciated diversity enough. Every day, every month, every year, we must work harder to deepen our appreciation. This is all the more true in the aftermath of the recent Taco Six incident, in which 6 undergraduates failed to demonstrate in sufficient depth to their appreciation of Mexican Culture.”

“Whether it’s a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here,” continued Mandel. She also told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.

Here at EphBlog, we have been praising Enrique’s Journey for more than a decade. Too cheap to buy the book? Nazario won the Pulitzer Prize for the newspaper articles that form the core of the story. Read them here for free.

Highly recommended.

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