A New York Times op-ed two years ago:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest for an intelligent and nuanced discussion.

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

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

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

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

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

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Interesting article in this week’s Williams Record on the virtual disapperance and possible extinction of JV sports at Williams.

Currently, only three JV teams remain: men’s JV soccer, men’s JV basketball and women’s JV basketball. This fall, the longstanding women’s JV soccer program was converted into a physical education class, after years of difficulties with participation and finding other teams to compete against. The women’s JV lacrosse team underwent the same transition last spring, but was ultimately cancelled after receiving no sign-ups. There are no plans to bring back the program this spring, [Athletic Director Lisa] Melendy said.

While I doubt many students get excited about going to see JV sporting events, I still think its a little sad for those students who would like to compete and be on a team, but cannot participate because they are not good enough for the varsity team.  There apparently are a number of causes for the decline in JV sports.  Happily, from my perspective, budgetary concerns are not among those reasons.  First, there are fewer students interested in playing on the JV team.  According to AD Melendy:

This decrease is, in part, a result of the change in student population that has occurred on campuses in recent decades, Melendy said. “We recruit more broadly now, for diversity of all kinds and for diversity of experience,” she explained. “The student body looks different than it did. I think we have fewer students for whom that was a central part of their high school experience. They did a lot of other things.”

I am guessing that there was never much recruiting for JV sports, but those spots were filled by students who enjoyed those sports and who could play at a high enough level.  One of my best friends at Williams was such a student.  He was a high school soccer player who played a season or two of JV soccer at Williams before deciding (correctly in my opinion!) to come play rugby instead.  According to Melendy, there are fewer athletically inclined students arriving on campus, making it harder to field enough athletes to make up a JV team.  I’m mildly surprised that the change in the applicant/admittee pool is so profound that it affects the ability to field JV teams, but I suppose it may be additional evidence that many youth sports today are dominiated by (relatively) wealthy kids, whose families have the money to become invested in the Youth Industrial Sports Complex.  (For the record, for good or for ill, I am definitely a part of the YISC).

In addition, according to the article, increased athletic specialization has reduced the number of students who, in the past, might have played on a JV team because fewer kids want to play a second sport.

Another reason given in the article for the demise of JV sports is the difficulty of finding opponents.  The teams have been forced to schedule games against prep school teams.  But those teams, in many cases, are too talented for the JV teams:

Difficulties in finding other teams to compete against have also hindered the College’s JV program in recent years. Until the early 2000s, JV teams competed against other teams in the NESCAC, often travelling with their varsity counterparts. More recently, they have competed against nearby private high schools. As more and more of high school athletes become highly competitive, it has become challenging for JV teams to compete against opponents who will soon be playing at the varsity level.

In order to maintain some options for JV-level players, the College has instituted PE classes which mimic the JV experience.  One of the problems with this is that those classes don’t have access to all of the resources of the athletic department, particularly trainers.  This, I think, is a problem which can be solved with money, by simply budgeting for the athletic department to be able to service non-varsity athletes.

Ultimately, the demise of JV sports seems to be a function of long-standing trends over which the College has little influence.  Like AD Melendy, I think this is too bad:

As JV teams become rarer, fewer students will have access to the experience of playing on a team at the College. “The lessons that you get from being on an athletic team, which I think are valuable and worthwhile, fewer students get to have,” Melendy said.

I agree with the AD here.  I think participating on an athletic team provides great memories and lessons to all participants, regardless of the skill/talent involved.  When I started with the Williams Rugby Football Club in the fall of 1986, I played on the D, E, and F-sides.  We weren’t good, but it was fun.  Over my four years I gradually moved up the ladder, eventually playing regularly on the B-side, with a few appearances on the A-side.  I had fun playing broomball with Bryant House in the intramural sports program (I still use the name of our team “The Killer Aardvarks” as the name of my rotisserie baseball team), as well as IM ice hockey.  But I recognize that perhaps much of this stemmed from my high school experience, where I played baseball, hockey, and soccer at relatively low levels.  Its too bad, in my view, that the JV option appears to be disappearing from the Williams campus.  Hopefully club and intramural sports can fill in the gaps.

 

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From the Berkshire Eagle two years ago:

Williams College celebrates its last Columbus Day

In ending the Columbus Day off at Williams College, it came down to accounting.

Sure enough, the current calendar makes no mention of Columbus. Would you, dear reader, have predicted that a decade or two ago? Me either! What changes will come by 2029? There is no longer a reference to either Veteran’s Day or Christmas in the calendar. I am not sure when those disappeared. “Thanksgiving” is still mentioned, but for how much longer?

The faculty voted to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday for faculty, staff and students about six months ago.

How long before the #MeToo movement comes from MLK?

The human resources department determined the college would trade off another holiday — Columbus Day — rather than adding another holiday to the calendar.

“This was just a simple trade-off,” said Jim Reische, chief communications officer at Williams College. “We didn’t do anything with Columbus Day. It was just a three-day weekend.”

Could this be (just!) about holiday bookkeeping? Perhaps! The College is a business and needs to track vacation days.

Administrative staff still had the day off on Monday, but that will change come next year. Classes still met.

Administrative staff will still be allowed to take the Columbus Day off next year if they choose, but they’ll have to use a floating holiday day. There will be classes on that day.

“The major driver was — we needed to consider MLK Day a holiday,” Reische said. “There was a strong push to make that a day off, to recognize it.”

“Push” from whom? I doubt that the typical dining services worker cares which holiday she gets. If anything, I bet that the preferences run the other way. The vast majority of Williams employees (below the faculty) are white working class, many of them Italian-Americans. An enterprising Record reporter would interview them . . .

And isn’t a holiday in the Berkshires in the fall much more desirable than one in January?

More important to the college in terms of programming is Claiming Williams Day, which began in 2009 after a series of racist and sexist incidents on campus in 2008, Reische said.

Can we please get our history straight? There was one key incident that drove Claiming Williams.

Claiming Williams Day includes a full roster of programming exploring what it means to be a diverse and inclusive campus, he said.

“It’s much more about academic and community-building than anything we ever did with Columbus Day,” he said.

Well, sure. But aren’t these separate issues? Issue one: Which holidays does Williams officially recognize and give staff members a day off for? Issue two: What events does Williams schedule on which days? The former has little to do with the latter.

The town of Williamstown took a different direction on Columbus Day earlier this year.

In May, town meeting voters agreed to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Williamstown Elementary School labeled Monday’s holiday Indigenous Peoples Day on its website as of Monday morning.

If I were Trump, I would make a huge deal out of Columbus Day: big celebration at the White House, perhaps a speech about how Democrats consider Italian-Americans to be deplorables, an (outrageous) proposal that any town/city/state which wants federal funds must celebrate Columbus Day. There would be few better ways of motivating the voters he, and the Republicans, will need in November.

Political Science 101 at Williams taught me that, he who picks the issue to fight over, wins. In any fight between “Columbus Day” and “Indigenous Peoples Day,” Trump wins easily.

Trump reads EphBlog! Last year, two hours after this post went up, he tweeted:

How long before Democratic activists start to attack Columbus?

Or maybe Trump is saving this as a fight to have in the fall of 2020?

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Ephblog has had several posts on the Harvard Admissions case (here, here, here). Today I want to look at a specific quote from judge’s decision:

Every student Harvard admits is academically prepared for the educational challenges offered at Harvard…In other words, most Harvard students from every racial group have a roughly similar level of academic potential, although the average SAT scores and high school grades of admitted applicants from each racial group differ significantly.

The key phrase in this quote is “roughly similar level.” In the past, there has been a lot of discussion on Ephblog about Academic Ratings and the role they play in the admission process. The judge in the Harvard case and I agree that as long as the admitted student is “academically prepared,” 50 points here or there on the SAT are not that big a deal. I would wager that DDF would disagree – anyone want to take that bet?

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

On the name and philosophy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is all really good, important stuff.

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Were the student members of the Sawicki Committee rolled? From former Williams professor John Drew:

In a recent Press Record podcast, one of the student members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, Eli Miller ’21, pushed back on campus watchdogs who believe the Sawicki report supports free speech to the extent that it would allow controversial speakers like John Derbyshire to appear on campus. Miller, a math and statistic major, was interviewed by a fellow student, Rebecca Tower ’21.

Rebecca Tauber

Do you have any last thoughts on the committee, their report, going forward?

Eli Miller

I think my one concern is that this committee — which I don’t think I’ve seen very much here, but I’ve seen sort of from like campus watch dogs — is that this is seen as a victory for people who believe that free speech is like an absolute right and that people on college campuses who try to dis-invite people are like liberal snowflakes.

That whole narrative is very popular, and my concern that this report gives those people a win.

I don’t think those people are correct in assuming this report supports them. But I think that definitely people have read it that way. And I guess I wish we had done more to resist that reading because I think it is a lot more nuanced and complicated than that. But I think at end of the day people are going to want to read what they want to read.

See Drew’s post for more commentary.

1) It is not clear if Miller is referring to EphBlog when he uses the phrase “campus watchdogs.” Clarification would be welcome!

2) Miller (and the other students on the committee?) were rolled. Sawicki (and other faculty?) knew what answer they wanted before the first meeting and they got it. When will Miller realize this? Probably when Derbyshire comes back to Williams. And, believe me, he is coming back . . .

3) The Record wrote a solid article when the Report was issued, including comments from Miller. But this topic is important enough that we need more reporting. Go ask the Administration if Derbyshire would be allowed to speak on campus if he were again invited by a student group in accordance with current policies. Not a hard question! And then, once the Administration tells you “Yes,” go interview Miller and other students on the Committee for their reactions.

4) Thanks to Drew for taking the time to transcribe the Miller interview.

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DDF posted this interesting article in the weekend links.  The article describes the saga of Williams golfer Dylan Dethier ’14, who was almost disqualified from participating in the 2013 NCAA Division 3 golf championships because he wrote a book which was about to be published which was related to golf:

The book (which you should definitely consider buying here, by the way!) entitled 18 in America, was my story of the year I spent between high school and college.

Seeking adventure, I’d spent a year living out of the back of my car, driving around the country and playing at least one round of golf in every state in the lower 48. I’d played the cheapest, most accessible public courses and wormed my way into the strangest, most elite private clubs, exploring the U.S. through the lens of golf, finding out where the game fit in. Eighteen years old plus 18 holes in every state made 18 in America. Anyway, the book is about people who play golf and where they play it — but it’s much more about a teenager surviving in his Subaru, plus it preceded my time at Williams College and had nothing to do with my golf ability anyways. A 20-handicapper could have written the same story.

The NCAA initially suspended Dethier because in writing the book “[Dethier] was deemed to have used [his] athletic ability for commercial gain.”  The story of the back and forth and the ultimate outcome for Dethier and the Williams golf team is interesting (and a little sad).  I highly recommend that you read the article.

What I wanted to focus on, however, is the recently passed California law which, according to the LA Times, “prohibits the NCAA from barring a university from competition if its athletes are compensated for the use of their name, image or likeness beginning Jan. 1, 2023.”  According to the LA Times

Proponents say the bill could be transformative for young athletes, especially for those of color and from poor backgrounds. For too long, they argue, corporations and colleges have been able to excessively profit off these students, even after they have left college and joined professional sports teams.

Supporters said the bill would also create new opportunities for female athletes who have limited professional opportunities to profit off their abilities in college. The bill passed the California Legislature unanimously.

On one level, the law seems to make perfect sense.  Why shouldn’t an athlete who helps to generate major dollars for his or her university be allowed to endorse products, or sell autographs, or get a job at the local deli to make spending money? As backers of the California law note, there are no direct costs to colleges and universities (although compliance costs are not likely to be zero).

I am pretty sympathetic to the idea that student athletes should be able to get jobs, and get endorsement dollars, if those opportunities are available to them.  The potential problem, however, goes back to the original reasons (or at least the ostensible reasons) these activities were prohibited in the first place.  That is, if athletes are free to accept outside employment, endorsement dollars, etc., then its pretty easy to envision the marketplace quickly devolving into a situation where athletes go to school where they can reap the most money, money which would essentially be outside the control of the colleges or the NCAA.  You might think this is OK (making money is, in some measure, the American way!), but it opens up lots of potential abuses.

I don’t think anyone really believes that Dethier’s book was any kind of corruption.  But what if some rich Williams alum offered a hotshot high school golfer a $50,000 a year summer job at his or her investment fund if the golfer attended Williams?  Are we comfortable with that?  I’m not, but I’m willing to concede that my position may based mostly on “this is the way its always been, so its probably right.”  For example, right now I think that same alum could make a similar deal with an amazing high school actor or singer who wanted to come to Williams, and that doesn’t really bother me.

But athletics are already entwined with the admissions process in a way which doesn’t always seem right, so I’m leery about opening it up to even more outside influence at Williams, and other colleges and universities.  What do you think?

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Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton is probably not EphBlog’s biggest fan.

From 2007:

And why is the investment office in Boston in the first place?

Note the charmingly naive coverage of this topic from the Record.

Chilton will commute between her offices in Williamstown and Boston. “Investment does not occur here at Williamstown,” Chilton said, “and so we need to have an office at a financial capital, which in this case is Boston.” She will be on campus Mondays and Tuesdays on a regular basis. “So far it’s been easy,” she said, “but then again, it’s not snowing yet.”

This is highly misleading. When you control an endowment of $1.5 billion, you are the client, you are the one with the power, you are the one that other people travel to meet. Investment managers, whether from the worlds of private equity, hedge funds, venture capital or any other field, will gladly come to Williamstown (or anywhere else) for a chance to manage a portion of that money. The reason that Chilton does not move to Williamstown is, almost certainly, because she and her family prefer to live in Weston. Nothing wrong with Weston, of course, but if Chilton does not care enough about Williams to move to Williamstown, what possible loyalty will she feel toward the College? Why wouldn’t she just take another job when a better offer comes along?

President Schapiro also played a part in this deception.

Eager to get started, Collette will disengage as quickly as possible from her current responsibilities and take up this new position sometime in October. As is typical with such positions, she’ll be based in a financial capital, in her case Boston, and have an office in Hopkins Hall, where she’ll spend significant time.

“I consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in the entrepreneurial start up of a new operation,” she said in accepting the position. “And Williams is such a fantastic school; I look forward to becoming part of the college community.”

First, it goes without saying that it is impossible to be a “part of the college community” if you live in Boston. But the key weasel phrase is “typical with such positions.” If the Record wanted to make trouble, it would investigate the truth of this statement. Find a set of positions like Chilton’s (CIO of a large endowment) and investigate how many of these individuals are located in a “financial capital” away from the institution for which they work.

Let me help. The article later mentions Paula Volent, vice president for investments at Bowdoin (and a protege of Swensen). She manages $670 million from that famous “financial capital,” Brunswick, Maine. Peter Shea does the same for Amherst from sunny central Massachusetts. Thomas Kannam is somehow able to manage Wesleyan’s $600 million endowment from Middletown, Connecticut. My, but the list of financial capitals in New England is larger than I imagined! And, of course, David Swensen himself does fine living in New Haven. Turns out that, if you control the money, people come to you.

If we can’t trust Morty/Chilton to be transparent with us about why she wants to work in Boston, why should we trust them to be honest about anything else?

From 2009:

According to the College’s Form 990, Chief Investment Officer Collete Chilton’s total compensation was $726,556 in FY 2008 and $686,053 in FY 2007.

The Record should do an article about Chilton’s compensation. Don’t the editors believe in muckraking anymore? I bet that some of the more left-wing Williams professors would provide good quotes, either on or off the record. Don’t think that there is anything suspect going on here? Perhaps you failed to read the College’s letter to the Senate Finance Committee.

Some members of the Investment Office are eligible for bonuses based on the return on our investments, though the office is so new that we have not completed the first year of returns on which bonuses would be computed. So, in the past ten years no such bonuses have been paid.

In other words, the College worries that Chilton and other (how many?) investment professionals won’t work hard enough even though Williams is paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. So, in addition to all that guaranteed money, we need to pay them extra bonuses or else they’ll —- what exactly? Spend all day at the movies?

Other fun posts include here, here and this five part series.

But credit where credit is due. The performance of the Williams endowment over the last decade has been outstanding.

Thanks to an Eph with Bloomberg access for sharing the data.

Apologies that this is tough to read. Key point is that, over the last decade, the Williams endowment has compounded at 8%, which is the second highest in its peer group of small college endowments and, roughly, 2% per year better than the average performance. How much richer is Williams because of this outperformance? Good question! My rough guess is that, if the value of the endowment has averaged about $2 billion over this period, 2% outperformance, compounded over 10 years generated about $400 million in additional wealth.

Perhaps former trustee chair Mike Eisenson ’77 — the Eph most clearly responsible for the creation of the investment office and (probably?) the person with the most say in the hiring of Chilton — is smarter than me, at least when it comes to money? Perhaps Collette Chilton knows what she is doing? Perhaps I should stick to blogging? Perish the thought!

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Democracy Requires Discomfort” by (honorary degree) Eph Michael Bloomberg, including a couple of Williams references.

The strange saga of a Division III golfer who got kicked out of the NCAA” by Dylan Dethier ’14.

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In DDF’s “Weekend Links” post, he included an article written by Wesleyan President Michael Roth link in the Wall Street Journal. The article is a relatively short and interesting read about “why universities need affirmative action for the study of conservative, libertarian and religious ideas.” Here is one quote I would like to highlight:

We are not interested in bringing in ideologues or shallow provocateurs intent on outraging students and winning the spotlight. We want to welcome scholars with a deep understanding of traditions currently underrepresented on our campus (and on many others) and look forward to the vigorous conversations they will inspire.

This principle is something that I hope people of good faith can agree on. What do you think?

Of course, it is a much trickier question to ask, who gets to decide if some one is a “provocateur” or a “scholar”? My answer is that I trust any faculty member to decide if someone is a scholar. I do not trust students to the same degree and I am OK not giving them carte blanche to invite anyone they want to speak on campus.

Regardless of who gets to decide, I am confident that speakers will be invited that some groups will see as a “provocateur.” When that happens, what is the appropriate response? I think there are several options: protest the speaker, provide counter programming that illustrates the “provocateur’s” lack of scholarly bona fides, engage (and defeat) them in the arena of ideas, expose the nefarious motivation behind the people who invited them. However, I do would be extremely hesitant to ban the speaker or allow violent protests to keep the speaker from presenting their view.

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Victoria Michalska ’22 writes in the Record:

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

EphBlog is here to solve Michalska’s problem:

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

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

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

Read the whole thing for context.

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From the Harvard Crimson:

Harvard College’s race-conscious admissions policies do not illegally discriminate against Asian American applicants, federal judge Allison D. Burroughs ruled Tuesday.

The ruling brings an end to this stage of the lawsuit filed against the University by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions in 2014. SFFA alleged that the College’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian American applicants by holding them to higher standards. Burroughs, however, found that Harvard’s use of race in its admissions process is legal.

“Ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race conscious admissions. Harvard’s admission program passes constitutional muster,” Burroughs wrote in her decision.

See the full decision (pdf) for details. I could spend a week or two going through the decision. Should I? Not sure any commentary would be that different from my five part series last year.

Thanks to David Kane ’58 for the pointer.

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Though I rarely saw much Williams football when I was at the College (usually only the Amherst and sometimes the Wesleyan games, because rugby games typically conflicted with football), and have only watched a few Williams-Amherst footballs games on TV, I still enjoy following the team.

Unlike a number of other Williams teams, in recent years football has not been a perennial powerhouse, either nationally or even in NESCAC (the New England Small College Athletic Conference).  Some years the team has been very good (8-0), and others have been kind of the opposite.  Most years are somewhere in between, with an overall record of 52-46 from 2007-2018.  Annual records going back to 2007 are shown after the break.

This year’s team appears to be off to a good start, and seems to be a bit of an offensive powerhouse.  The team is off to a 2-1 start, and has piled up 98 points in its first 3 games – a 13-17 loss to Middlebury, a 44-8 win over Tufts, and a 41-10 victory against Bowdoin.  The offense is averaging over 430 yards of offense per game.  The offense appears to be built around the ground game, putting up a NESCAC-best 237 yards rushing per game, which is almost 40 yards more than the second best team in the conference.  The rushing attack seems to rely on 4 players:  junior quarterback Bobby Maimaron (89 yards per game), sophomore running back Dan Vaughn (75 ypg), freshman running back Joel Nicholas (50 ypg), and freshman running back Elijah Parks (35 ypg).  With such a productive and young running attack, the next few years should also be good, assuming the offensive line remains healthy and good.

The passing game has been less important, ranked towards in the bottom third of the conference at just under 200 yards per game, but still has the second most passing touchdowns (7) in the conference.

Defensively, the team has been very solid, giving up the second fewest points and the third fewest yards in the conference.

We will check in on the team from time to time this season to see how things are going as the march towards the hoped-for crushing of the Defectors continues.

(more…)

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Williams admissions work the same as admissions at most other elite colleges. If you understand the process at Swarthmore or Princeton, then you understand 99% of what happens at Williams. There are a variety of books about admissions at elite colleges, e.g., The Gatekeepers and A is for Admission. They capture 90% of the details. (These books are somewhat dated and may gild the lily a bit when it comes to race.) Williams Magazine published (pdf) an excellent 2005 article, “Recipe for Success,” about admissions. Virtually everything in it is true, but it also leaves out many of the more controversial aspects.

The purpose of this post is to explain how the Williams admissions process works in reality, not how it should work.

First, the most important part of the admissions process is the “academic rating,” often abbreviated as “AR.” From the Recipe article:

The full-time admission staffers, plus a handful of helpers like Phil Smith ’55 (Nesbitt’s predecessor as director), pore over the folders. Two readers examine each folder independently, without seeing each other’s comments, and assess them in three major ways. Each applicant gets an academic rating from 1 to 9 that focuses heavily on his or her high school grades, standardized test scores, the rigor of his or her academic program within the context of the school setting and the strength of teacher recommendations.

Nurnberg ’09 et al (pdf) provide a similar description:

After evaluating the applicant’s SAT scores, high school grades, essays, class rank, high school academic program, support from the high school administration, AP test score — or IB test scores — and teacher recommendations, admissions readers assign the applicant an academic rating from the scale 1 — 9, with 1 being the best.

Amherst, and all other elite colleges, use essentially the same system. The College does not like to reveal the details of these ratings, but we know from Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 thesis that:

While the academic reader ratings are somewhat subjective, they are strongly influenced by the following guidelines.

  • Academic 1: at top or close to top of HS class / A record / exceptional academic program / 1520 – 1600 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 2: top 5% of HS class / mostly A record / extremely demanding academic program / 1450 – 1520 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 3: top 10% of HS class / many A grades / very demanding academic program / 1390 – 1450 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 4: top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 5: top 20% of HS class / B record / demanding academic program / 1260 – 1320 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 6: top 20% of HS class / B record / average academic program / 1210 – 1280 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 7: top 25% of HS class / mostly B record / less than demanding program / 1140 – 1220 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 8: top 33% of HS class / mostly B record or below / concern about academic program / 1000 – 1180 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 9: everyone else.

These ratings are high-school-quality adjusted. At an elite school like Boston Latin or Exeter, you can be in the top 5% or even lower and still be an AR 1. At a weaker high school, you need to be the valedictorian. At the weakest high schools (bottom 25%?), even the valedictorian is almost never considered smart enough to go to Williams, at least in the absence of top standardized test scores.

Note that the working paper (pdf) from which these details are taken was co-authored by then-Williams president Morty Schapiro, so one hopes that it is accurate! Nurnberg’s senior thesis included a copy of the “Class of 2009 Folder Reading Guide, Academic Ratings,” which provided these details:

      verbal   math   composite SAT II   ACT    AP
AR 1: 770-800 750-800 1520-1600 750-800 35-36 mostly 5s
AR 2: 730-770 720-750 1450-1520 720-770 33-34 4s and 5s
AR 3: 700-730 690-720 1390-1450 690-730 32-33 4s

Williams, and all other elite schools, use this system because academic rating does a wonderful job of predicting academic performance at Williams and elsewhere.

Perhaps the main reason that this post is necessary is that Williams, when politically convenient, likes to deny the fundamental realities about how it decides who to admit and who to reject. Consider then-President Adam Falk and Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01 writing in the Record:

[T]he very notion that the “quality” of students can be defined on a single linear scale is preposterous

Academic rating is, precisely, a “single linear scale” and it is, by far, the major driver of admissions decisions. This is true both for the process as a whole and within sub-groups. For example, African-American applicants with academic rating 1 to 3 are virtually certain to be admitted while those with academic rating of 9 are almost always rejected. The College may have different standards across sub-categories but, within each subcategory (except athletes and development prospects), the academic rating explains 90% of the variation.

Second, students with an academic rating worse than 2 (i.e., 3 or higher) are summarily rejected unless they have a specific “hook” or attribute.

The Recipe article is explicit:

In general, all applicants with a combined academic rating of 3 or higher are rejected at this point, unless the first and second readers have identified one or more “attributes” that warrant additional consideration.

Details:

The readers also assign any of more than 30 “attributes” that admission uses to identify exceptional traits. Some of these are easily quantified, such as being the child or grand-child of an alumnus, a member of a minority group, an “impact” athlete or a local resident. Other more subjective “tags” draw attention (usually but not always favorably) to something special about a candidate, like a powerful passion or aptitude for scientific research or an interest in getting a non-science Ph.D.

From Nurnberg ’09 el al, attributes (in addition to race/ethnicity/gender) include:

alumni grandparent, alumni other, alumni parent, alumni sibling, studio art, development or future fundraising potential, dance, institutional connection, intellectual vitality, local, music, politically active, religious, research science, economically disadvantaged, social service, theater, top athlete, tier 2 athlete, and tier 3 athlete

The naive reader will assume that all these attributes have a similar effect. Being a great musician or a great athlete will help some AR 4s get into Williams, and that is OK. (And the College wants you to think that.) In fact, some attributes matter much more than others. Recall (from 2004!) Admissions Director Dick Nesbitt ’74:

We are able to admit roughly 120 top rated musicians each year from the top of the academic reader rating scale–what we refer to as academic 1′ and 2’s (broadly defined as 1500+ SAT’s and very top of the class).

For most attributes, the College does not need to dip below AR 1s and 2s. Yes, being a top musician may help you in the competition with other outstanding students, but, if you are AR 3 or below, it won’t. You will be rejected. And the same applies to other attributes. Top students are also, often, deeply involved in social service or theater. In high school, they often excel in research science or political activism. If Williams were to admit only AR 1s/2s, it would have plenty of students in all these categories.

Third, for applicants with AR 3 or below, the attributes that matter most are race, income and athletics.

Does this mean that no other attributes ever matter? No! It is certainly the case that the daughter of a prominent alum could get into Williams as an AR 4 or the son of a Williams professor as an AR 3. But the major categories, the ones that account for the vast majority of AR 3 and below admissions are race, income and athletics.

Don’t want to read all the posts from those links? Here is a brief summary:

1) There are 100 or so admissions decisions which are driven by a Williams coach. You are either on her list or you are not. These “tips” and “protects” are, by definition, only used for students with AR 3 and below. Best single post overview of the topic is here. See this for older commentary.

2) In the class of 2022, Williams has (pdf) 98 African-American/Hispanic students. A few of these are AR 1 or 2 applicants who would have been accepted at Williams regardless of which racial box they checked. But a majority, probably a vast majority, are AR 3 or below. Recall this discussion of SAT scores:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

Asian-Americans in the 700+ range are at least 6 times more common than African-Americans/Hispanics. So, how can Williams have more African-Americans/Hispanics than Asian-Americans enrolled? (Hint: It isn’t because there aren’t 100+ Asian-Americans among the AR 1/2 applicants who are currently rejected by Williams.) The reason is that Williams admits scores of African-American/Hispanic applicants with AR 3 and below. Williams does this because it wants a class which “mirrors” or “reflects” the US population, at least when it comes to African-Americans and Hispanics. Note that the average African-American student at Amherst has an SAT score consistent with AR 5. It is highly unlikely that Williams does a better job than Amherst at attracting highly rated African-American students. The biggest problem that Williams faces is that Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford accept virtually every African-American (and almost all Hispanics) with AR 1/2 credentials, and Williams almost never wins those applicants, not least because it offers much less generous financial aid.

3) Unlike athletics (which the college is, sometimes, transparent about) and race (on which there is good data), family income and parental education are trickier. The College reports (and is proud of the fact) that 15%-20% of students are eligible for Pell Grants and that 15%-20% of students are first generation college students, meaning that they come from families in which neither parent has a 4 year BA. (Of course, there is a big overlap between these two groups, and, to a lesser extent, between these two groups and African-American/Hispanic students.) The problem is that all standardized test results (and, therefore, academic rating) are much lower, on average, for such students. So, in order to get such high enrollments, Williams must admit scores of such students with AR 3 or below.

About 1/2 of a Williams class is AR 1 or 2. (The median math+verbal SAT score at Williams is 15101, which is between AR 1 and 2.) There are 100 recruited athletes (all of whom, by definition, are AR 3 or below), 100 African-American/Hispanic students, 100 first generation and 100 Pell Grant recipients. That adds up to 400+ in a class of 550! Of course, many students fall into more than one category. Many (outside the athletes) are AR 1 or 2. But, given that we only have 275 spots left beneath AR 1/2, a large majority of the bottom half of the class are members of at least one of these 4 categories. The bottom 100 students in each class (approximately AR 5 and below) is almost completely dominated by these students. And, in the categories outside of athletes, academic rating drives the decisions. Williams is much more likely to accept an African-American and/or a first generation student and/or a future Pell Grant recipient if her academic rating is 1 to 3. Every single AR 9 applicant is rejected, regardless of her other outstanding attributes.

And that is how admissions works at Williams, and at almost all other elite colleges.

If knowledgeable observers (like abl) think that any of the facts above are wrong, please comment.

[1] Note that the renorming of SAT scores a few years ago has caused a big increase from the old median of about 1450. This makes the usage of written guidelines from before the increase a bit tricky. Does anyone know if Williams has changed the definitions for Academic Rating?

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Wesleyan President Michael Roth writes in the Wall Street Journal about “why universities need affirmative action for the study of conservative, libertarian and religious ideas.”

DOE Office of Civil Rights investigates College’s alleged Title IX violation in discipline case” — good Record coverage from new (?) editor-in-chief Nicholas Goldrosen.

Lovely feel-good column from the Eagle: “As a community welcomes Williams students, they repay the favor with a meal.”

(more…)

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DDF’s post from yesterday had some “interesting” data from Harvard. At the end of the post, he says “Maybe this is good policy. Maybe not.” I think it is self evident that an admissions policy based on academics alone would lead to a Harvard (or a Williams) that is a less beneficial academic environment for all involved. As I have stated in previous posts, I trust the professionals in the admissions office to pick the right students. The only academic qualification I care about is, that they can do the work. As a former teacher, I will happily take a class with students who get A’s and B’s (and maybe even a few C’s) and has other qualities that are important over a class with students who get all A’s but lacks those other important qualities. Anyone want to guess what those “other important qualities” might include?

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We have covered the Harvard admissions trial a bit at EphBlog. Do readers want more? In the meantime, one of the most interesting exhibits comes from this expert report (pdf):

There would be (shockingly?) few African-Americans or Hispanic students at Harvard if admissions were based solely on academics. If fact, this table is an overestimate since things are worse in the tails and Harvard could admit an entire class from just the top 5% of academic ability. Interestingly, white enrollment is largely unaffected.

Affirmative action at elite schools consists, almost entirely, of replacing Asian-American students with African-American and Hispanic students.

Although we lack the data, the same is almost certainly true at Williams. In fact, it is even worse because Harvard (and Yale and Princeton) accept/enroll not only the (few) African-American/Hispanic students with HYP credentials but also the next few hundreds, i.e., all the African-American/Hispanic applicants with only Williams-level credentials.

Maybe this is good policy. Maybe not. But EphBlog is here to explain exactly what is going on.

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Profiles of Presidents Past: Adam Falk

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

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Recent grad’s post last week highlighted the recent Record editorial calling for more “transparency and accountability” in cases of sexual assault on campus.  One of the statements made in the editorial was that:

[W]e believe that sexual assault should not result in mere suspension except in the rarest of cases. Rather, the College should establish expulsion as the presumptive, though not mandatory, punishment for students who are found responsible for sexual assault

You may agree or disagree with the Record’s opinion on this issue, but if the College were to make expulsion the sanction in most cases where a student has been found responsible for “sexual assualt” (I’ve put it in quotes, because the College has a specific definition of the term which I will get to in a moment),  this would raise the stakes dramatically for anyone accused of sexual assault.  While suspension from the College is a significant punishment, expulsion is life altering, in the sense that it deprives that person of a Williams degree (and probably excludes that person from the College community for life, although I’m not certain what the collateral punishments are), as well as the financial consequences.

The College provides a definition of sexual assualt:  “Sexual Assault means any non-consensual sexual intercourse or other non-consensual sexual contact” (emphasis added).  “Other non-consensual sexual contact” can mean a lot of things, including, for example, groping in a crowd at a party.  People can disagree on whether that type of activity should result in expulsion, but any student facing the possiblity of expulsion would certainly want to do everything possible to avoid that.

The procedures for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct (which includes sexual assault), are set forth here.  I will try to go through them in more detail in future posts, but for now I want to highlight one section which, as a lawyer, really jumped out at me:

Both the complainant and respondent have the right to have an advisor of their choosing present with them for all parts of the process, including any meeting with campus officials, with the hearing panel, and with the investigator.  The advisor can speak to the complainant/respondent at any time during the process but cannot speak directly to the investigator or to the hearing panel.

(emphasis added)

As I read this section, the College will allow someone being investigated for sexual misconduct to have a lawyer (or another advocate/advisor), but that person cannot interact with the investigator or the adjudication panel on behalf of the accused.  For a student facing automatic expulsion, that seems to put the accused in a very difficult spot.  While I think this section of the procedures is unfair even today, if the College were to make expulsion the default punishment, it would be even more egregious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original version published in the Record in 2008.

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At least half the Ephs who attend law school are making a mistake. Their lives would be fuller, happier and, often, monetarily richer if they did something, anything else. I spent 30 minutes six years ago talking with a junior (and occasional EphBlog commentator) about why his ill-formed plans for attending law school were a bad idea. Below is a cleaned up version of what I told him. Other comments welcome.

1) The vast majority of Ephs who attend law school have little/no idea what law school or the practice of law are like. They have watched Law and Order. They know that successful corporate lawyers in big cities make a lot of money. They like thinking about constitutional issues in a class like PSCI 216: American Constitutionalism I: Structures of Power. But this knowledge provides almost no grounds for making a good decision. As Jeff notes:

The only definite advice I’d give is to figure out BEFORE law school one (or more) legal career paths that are of interest to you, and try to learn what a day in the life on those paths is truly like. Too many people pursue law school, and go into enormous debt, thinking that it will “open up doors.” 99 times out of 100, the only doors it uniquely opens are doors to traditional legal careers, typically in law firms, academia, or government.

Correct.

First, before you apply to law school, you should attend a normal (not staged for applicants) first year class in something like torts or civil procedure at Albany Law School or at a night school in your hometown over the summer. (Yes, I realize that this is a hassle. But don’t be stupid. You are about to spend $200,000 (at least) and devote three years of your life. You need to get a clue.) Find out what a real law school class is like. You will probably be shocked at how boring it is. Do you remember that annoying PHIL 102 class in which 2 or 3 dweebs prattled on endlessly about the most semantic/pointless disputes imaginable? That is what law school is like. If you do not enjoy detailed discussions about extremely minor points, you will not like law school.

Second, try reading some of the material from law school, like this set of cases about torts. Read at least 100 pages of cases and commentary before you apply. You will read thousands of pages in law school. Now is the time to find out if you want to. Just because you like the sort of readings assigned in a typical Williams class does not mean that you will like readings in the law.

Third, spend a day with a lawyer, a regular working attorney. There are several alumni in the Williamstown and Albany area who would be happy to let you shadow them for a day. Find out what their lives are like. It is not glamorous! Law jobs are varied, of course, but you owe it to yourself to learn about the profession before going into significant debt. (Note that pre-med students have much less to worry about in this regard. Their interactions with doctors growing up have been very representative of what most doctors spend most of their time doing.)

All of the above is the minimum you should do before applying to law school. Too many Williams students tell themselves some version of: “I like writing. I like reading. I like thinking. I was good at all those things before Williams and I have only gotten better at them. Lawyers seem to do a lot of writing, reading and thinking. So, I should go to law school.” This is faulty reasoning because law school (and law practice) are radically different from your Williams experience.

Even worse are the Williams students who think: “I get good grades at Williams. I like school and do well at it. I don’t really know what I want to do with my life. Getting a job doesn’t have much appeal. My parents will be happy if I go to law school. So, let’s apply!”

2) The vast majority of Ephs who attend law school have little/no idea what their likely career path in the law will be. At least 1/3 of the Williams students who apply to law school would not apply if they took the above steps. They would realize that law school and a legal career are not for them. But there are still many Ephs, even among the 2/3 who find tort law cases interesting and who were intrigued by the life of a lawyer, who are making a mistake in going to law school because they misestimate the odds of getting the law job that they want.

Consider:

It’s time those of us inside the profession did a better job of telling others outside the profession that most of us don’t earn $160,000 a year, that we can’t afford expensive suits, flashy cars, sexy apartments. We don’t lunch with rock stars or produce movies. Every year I’m surprised by the number of my students who think a J.D. degree is a ticket to fame, fortune and the envy of one’s peers — a sure ticket to the upper middle class. Even for the select few for whom it is, not many last long enough at their law firms to really enjoy it.

There’s something wrong with a system that makes a whole lot of people pay a whole lot of money for jobs that are not worth it, or that have no future. If we wanted to be honest, we would inform students that law school doesn’t keep their options open. Instead, we should say that if they work hard and do well, they can become lawyers.

Or:

Every year tens of thousands of wannabe lawyers enter law school. The majority will be extremely disappointed by their career opportunities.

Thus the title of this essay: law school is a big lie. People enter law school with the idea that a law degree is their ticket to a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle. In fact, just the opposite, law school for most is a ticket to a worse financial state than if they had not attended at all.

Read these posts. (What other links would Ephs suggest on this topic?) Now, to be fair, much of this advice is being given to students without a Williams IQ, students who are considering Tier II or Tier III law schools. Most Williams students attend highly ranked law schools. But even among the graduates of elite schools, the career paths are much more restricted then current undergraduates might suspect. The vast majority of Williams students who attend a highly ranked law school go in one of three directions. (And there is a great senior thesis to be written about the career paths and choices made by Williams students who attended law school over the last 50 years.)

First, they drop out of law altogether. Our lawyer readers can tell numerous stories about their classmates who no longer practice law. Almost none of those students go into a career that either required, or provides an advantage to those with, a legal education. They are just three years behind (and much more in debt) than the students who avoided law school. (If you and/or your family are independently wealthy, then, obviously, you can afford to spend three years in law school — or getting a Ph.D. in English Literature or sailing around the world or whatever — but almost all Williams students have money concerns.)

Second, they enter poorly paid government work. Now, there is nothing wrong with becoming a lawyer for the FDIC or HUD, but students need to be aware of the economic realities of those career paths. Most Williams students, to the extent that they want to work in government, are better off just going straight from Williams to those agencies. They will be in a position to climb the ladder faster without all the unnecessary debt.

Third, they enter BIG LAW, the elite law firms of the major cities in the US. Want to know what that is like? Read this:

Economically it represented a perfect reification of various Marxist theories. As associates we were wage slaves, members of a white-collar proletariat, objectively closer to the model described in Das Kapital than most nineteenth-century factory hands. It may seem odd to call someone a wage slave whose starting salary was $85,000 (though broken down per hour it was much less impressive). But the work of a junior associate, in reality, is being a clerk, a checker, the one whose job is on the line to make sure that the decimal points are in the right place. No one with an Ivy League education is going to perform this sort of drudgery for much less than 80 grand.

We were also faced with alienation from the products of our labor. You would work on the tiniest part of a huge transaction. You would never see the big picture, never know if your all-nighter made a difference, if your clauses appeared in the final documents, never even find out if the deal had gone through.

And this.

Biglaw women are more screwed because society expects more from mothers than “I pay the bills.” It’s BS, but it is where we still are. So on top of paying all the bills (to say nothing of actually carrying a child to term — you know, something that might get you laid off from K&L Gates), Biglaw women are also expected to invest the emotional and caretaking energy a family needs.

Which is impossible to do while billing the hours Biglaw requires. Not difficult, not challenging, it’s straight-up impossible. Biglaw women can break themselves in two and put on a cosmetically enhanced face and claim that they have the perfect job and family and life, but the only people stupid enough to buy it are younger women who want to be in Biglaw and aren’t yet able to deal with the fact that their career choices will have consequences in other areas of their lives.

What other articles about life in BIG LAW would readers recommend?

Both my parents are lawyers and both my grandfathers were lawyers. (And happy birthday Mom!) I was accepted to law school and (almost) attended. I am the sort of person who would have (and does at EphBlog!) liked arguing about minor points in endless detail. I know people who are perfect for a legal career. Yet most Williams students who apply to law school are completely uninformed about what that decision implies about their future.

Summary: Do not go to law school just because you are good at school, it will make your parents happy, and/or you don’t want to start a real job. Those may all be true, but they are bad reasons. First, learn about what law school and the legal profession are like. Second, understand what sort of career you are likely to have. At least 50% of the Williams students applying to law school from the class of 2019 are making a mistake. Avoid their error.

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In Whitney’s post earlier this week, he suggested we look at Williams policies around sexual assault and misconduct. I decided to begin to take on that assignment. As Whitney and my college GPA can attest, my first pass at an assignment does not always produce a quality result. That being said, it seems to my laymen’s eye that the procedure’s laid out are a good attempt at trying to handle a horrible situation as best as possible. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to be a “complainant” or a “respondent,” however, it seems like the college is laying out a good faith effort to set up a procedure that will be fair to both parties. Of course, how things are set up is only part of the equation – the actions and motivations of those involved in execution are also very important.

What do you think of the college’s procedure?

What do you think of the people responsible for the execution of that procedure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for “accountability,” their statement is clear:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An article on how Williams is “soliciting input from a broadly defined group of stakeholders that includes students, alumni, faculty, staff and members of the community Williams calls home. That includes not just Williamstown, but also North Adams, Lanesborough, Pownal, Vt., and beyond”.

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Notwithstanding DDF’s concerns that the Record would not cover the the Bae ’17 rape verdict, the paper published a solid, if not particularly probing, story about it last week.  While many of the details reported in the Record have been reported elsewhere, I think it was useful for the Williams community to have it in the Record, as more community members are likely to see those details in the Record than elsewhere.

The paper gave a basic recap of the procedural history of the case, before giving a brief synopsis of the assault itself:

On Sept. 6, the Berkshire Superior Court convicted Yoonsang Bae ’17 on one count of rape.

Judge Michael Callan found him guilty, after a bench trial, of sexually assaulting another student while he was attending the College in 2014. His ultimate conviction was the product of several years of investigation, including his two-year suspension from the College between 2014 and 2016. Bae will be sentenced by Callan on Friday and he faces up to 20 years in prison.

In July 2014, Bae provided large quantities of alcohol to a then-19-year-old student while at a party. She became sick several times, and he ultimately led her back to his room, where she fell asleep. When she awoke, he was assaulting her, and he refused to stop despite her repeated insistence.

The Record also gave some details about the College’s procedures when investigating an allegation of sexual misconduct and/or assault.  While some of this is undoubtedly known to some EphBlog readers, I thought it interesting that the College hires an outside investigator, who then presents findings to a three-member panel of College staff (not students or faculty).  From this description, I assume anyone who is eligible to vote at faculty meetings is ineligible to serve on one of these panels, but that is not 100% clear from the article.

(Full details on the procedures are found here.  These are probably worth blogging about in the future.  Although interesting, I think it was appropriate for this Record article not to delve into the procedures, though it might make for an interesting investigative piece at some point).

Another interesting item from the Record article is the fact that Bae was offered a plea in which he ultimately could have avoided a criminal conviction.  If this is true, it was obviously a terrible mistake for him to turn that plea down.  I wonder why he did so?  Did he really feel as though he hadn’t done anything criminal, and didn’t want to admit to something he thought he hadn’t done?  Or was he sufficiently confident in his own ability to tell the story of what happened in a way favorable to him?  Or confident in the inability of the victim to tell her story persuasively?  Regardless of the reason for turning down the deal, he must be regretting that now.

Finally, the article provides this interesting quote from the District Attorney’s office about new prosecution priorities for the new Berkshire County DA:

“We did not necessarily change any formal office policies regarding sexual assault on college campuses [in the new administration],” said Andy McKeever, public information officer at the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office. “However, District Attorney Andrea Harrington has placed a priority on pursuing these cases aggressively. If a victim wants to go to trial we are going to fully support the victim and pursue justice.”

I wonder whether the DA’s office is really as passive as it sounds in making these decisions on whether (i.e. simply asking the victim “What do you want to do?”, as opposed to seeking to persuade the victim of a particular course of action in a particular case).  From my perspective, while the victim’s wishes are an important factor in whether to prosecute (and without a victim’s cooperation, prosecution may be essentially impossible), I would hope that the DA’s office will make those prosecution decisions independently, weighing all of the factors in making those choices.

UPDATE:  The Berkshire Eagle reports that Bae has been sentenced to a 3-year prison term:

 Minutes after apologizing for the pain he’d caused his victim and those around him, a former Williams College student was sentenced to three years in prison for raping a classmate in 2014…

Before the brief hearing got underway, Bae’s attorney, Charles Dolan, asked the judge if his client, in shackles and a white jumpsuit, could be uncuffed and join him at the defense table rather than the defendant’s seat.

Callan denied that request…

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Stephanie Ilberg asked Callan to consider a prison sentence of five to seven years. Ilberg noted Bae has no prior criminal record but said he was someone the victim had trusted and considered something of a mentor or “big brother.”

“Yes, she chose to drink,” Ilberg said. “She didn’t choose to get raped.”

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An interesting forum from back in 2010:

If you’ve considered going to graduate school in history, come to a History Graduate School Panel discussion on Tuesday at 7:00 pm in Griffin 7. Professors Dubow, Fishzon, and Kittleson will speak about their own graduate school experiences, and will answer any questions you might have.

Good stuff. Kudos to the professors involved for taking the time to participate. Comments:

1) Relevant discussion here and here. I second Professor Sam Crane’s remarks:

In fact, I tell them the academic job market is horrible, has been bad for a long, long time, and is getting worse. I tell them that getting a job like the one I have is unlikely. I tell them that they should go on for a Ph.D. only if they truly love the learning, because that is something they will be certain to have for a lifetime, regardless of what job they find themselves with. And for some of them, that is what it is about. Love of learning, regardless of whether they get an ideal academic job.

This was true in 2010 and is even more true now. It is true, not just in history and political science but in almost every academic field. If anything, areas like physics and biology are even worse, mainly because of the volume of Ph.Ds which they produce.

My only quibble with Sam’s comments might be to clarify that a love of learning is not enough of a reason to justify graduate school in history. With the internet as your oyster, you can pursue learning as much as your free time allows without going to graduate school.

2) Read Derek Catsam ’93:

[G]raduate students and those looking at entering this competitive world need to be cognizant of the realities. If you are planning to enter a field like, say, US history, it is probably incumbent upon you to know the odds. Further, it seems to me that it is pretty irresponsible of those of us with the ability to advise students if we emphasize the great aspects of intellectual life within the academy and do not point out the reality — your odds of getting the PhD are smaller than you think, your odds of getting a job are slighter still, and your odds of getting tenure at a place yet smaller, and then all of this happening at a place you would otherwise choose to live? Infinitesimal.

Also Swarthmore Professor Tim Burke:

Should I go to graduate school?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: maybe, but only if you have some glimmering of what you are about to do to yourself. Undergraduates coming out of liberal arts institutions are particularly vulnerable to ignorance in this regard. …

Just don’t try graduate school in an academic subject with the same spirit of carefree experimentation. Medical school, sure. Law school, no problem. But a Ph.D in an academic field? Forget it. If you take one step down that path, I promise you, it’ll hurt like blazes to get off, even if you’re sure that you want to quit after only one year.

Two years in, and quitting will be like gnawing your own leg off.

Past that, and you’re talking therapy and life-long bitterness.

Burke is right. I hope that the panelists back then, whether or not they agreed with Burke, made sure that students know what some historians believe. I worry that such an event might too easily have degenerated into a “You are all smart Williams students who should dream big and live large!” Nothing wrong with that advice when a student asks if she should try a difficult upper-level seminar, but Ephs need a more reality-based answer when leaving the Purple Bubble. Large numbers of students in the class of 2020 who are going to graduate school are making a mistake. Professor Sara Dubow is, no doubt, a wonderful, hard-working professor. But there is also a sense in which she won the lottery . . .

3) Key data would be a listing of all the Ephs who went to graduate school in, for example, history from 1990 through 2000. Where are they now? What happened to them along the way? If there were 50, I bet that fewer than 40 made it to Ph.D., fewer than 20 got any tenure-track jobs at all, and fewer than 5 got tenure. How many got tenure at a place that pays as well as Williams? I don’t know. In fact, I have trouble coming up with many Eph historians of that era, other than our own Derek Catsam ’93, Sara Dubow ’91 and Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97. Pointers welcome!

4) There are some fields — like economics, statistics and computer science — in which supply/demand are more in balance. There are still nice academic jobs at places like Williams and plenty of opportunities in industry.

5) Never attend a Ph.D. program which is not fully funded.

6) The 2010 comment thread includes excellent discussion. I miss the old EphBlog!

7) Still want to get a Ph.D. even though you are fully aware of the likely outcomes? Cool! EphBlog fully supports informed decision-making. Our main point here is to encourage you to be fully informed. Graduate school in history can be fun and rewarding! Just be sure to have a back-up plan . . .

UPDATE: First version of this post went up 9 years ago. What is the academic job market like? Consider what happened to the professors who participated in the panel.

Roger Kittleson was already tenured at the time of the panel. Life at Williams is (I hope!) good. What sort of advice does he give to history students today?

Sara Dubow is now a full professor of history at Williams. She is our lottery winner.

Anna Fishzon is listed as a “Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University in the City of New York.” But she still lists her Williams assistant professor position at the top of her profile, so it is not clear how much substance there is to the Columbia position. Even though she did great work in graduate school — which is the only way she got hired by Williams in the first place — there is no (stable) job for her in academia. Is there one for you, Dear Reader? Probably not.

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Bethany McLean ’92 on Elon Musk in Vanity Fair. Self-recommending.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth writes in the New York Times about safe spaces.

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In the comments on Whitney’s excellent post about Family Wealth at Williams, there was some discussion about a theoretical poor student and how their financial situation might impact their experience at Williams. I think DDF underestimates how hard it can be for someone from a different background and/or limited means to adjust to life at college.

Here is an interesting article from the New York Times (link) that gives some real world examples of how someone’s background can have a major impact on their student experience. I find it provides compelling reasons for schools like Williams (and amHerst) to be thoughtful, creative and thorough in providing support to students with these kinds of backgrounds.

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Thanks to an anonymous student:

Dear Williams Students,

It gives us great pleasure to welcome the Class of 2023 and all of you who are returning. We hope you all had summers that were both productive and restorative and we look forward to working with you in the year ahead. To that end, we want to share a number of updates and news items with you as we start the year.

Why does the College refuse to publicly archive these messages? Future historians will curse you!

Health and Wellbeing Updates:

We’re happy to announce some enhancements to our Health and Wellbeing programs and services. One important addition is our adoption of TalkSpace. TalkSpace is an innovative online therapy service that is now available, at no cost and effective immediately, to all enrolled students, twelve months a year and even while traveling abroad. TalkSpace connects users to a dedicated, licensed therapist from a secure, HIPAA-compliant mobile app and web platform. Their roster comprises more than 5,000 licensed clinicians from across the country, who collectively speak over forty languages. You can send your therapist a text, voice or video message anytime, from anywhere, throughout your time at Williams. We’re providing this service to students in addition to all of our existing on-campus offerings in psychotherapy, psychiatry and on-call crisis services, as well as the wellbeing promotion events, workshops and groups we organize throughout the year. Stay tuned for user-friendly instructions on how to use TalkSpace.

I wonder how many students these therapists will be helping at the same time. Deep learning has made automated therapy chat bots possible . . . and maybe easy. The word “dedicated” is . . . subject to interpretation.

Our team also has some wonderful new clinicians we’d love for you to meet. Please visit our website to learn more about our staff: https://health.williams.edu/what-is-integrative-wellbeing/.

We have also expanded the college’s Non-Emergent Medical Transportation (NEMT) system. The system is now available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week throughout the year, including summers. As a reminder, the NEMT provides transportation for all non-emergency off-campus medical needs, including doctor and physical therapy appointments, dental visits, urgent care visits, x-rays/blood tests/lab visits, etc. You may also call for pickup if you were taken to a hospital for an emergency and need a ride back to campus after you’re discharged. New this year, we’re also providing twice-daily shuttles to the Walgreens Pharmacy in Rite-Aid (Colonial Plaza) to pick up prescriptions. Please check here for details on how to make the most of this service.

None of this is, necessarily, bad spending. But I would prioritize matching financial aid packages from places like Harvard first.

Policy Updates:

Students have requested that we be as clear and transparent as possible in describing our policies around freedom of expression. We’d like to call your attention to three policies we’ve updated and edited for clarity over the summer. The policies provide guidance on campus postings (please check here), the use of campus facilities and related resources for campus speakers/performances (please check here), and campus protests (please check here). We encourage you to review each one, especially if you plan on posting fliers, hanging banners, or bringing speakers this year.

Good stuff! Maud seized her moment, just as we predicted she would.

The College would be wise to seek a Green Light designation from FIRE. This is the easiest way to demonstrate to skeptical alums that the College has turned the corner on Falk’s error.

The Log:

When we originally renovated and re-opened the Log a few years ago, it was managed by a different vendor with a more expensive menu. To encourage student business, we piloted a college-sponsored, limited 30% food discount for students with a current college ID. With our popular new operators and a much less expensive, more flexible menu, we’re shifting away from that early pilot program. Rather than provide an across-the-board Log subsidy, the college will provide an additional $50 in annual discretionary funds to every financial aid student, usable anywhere. For the 2020 academic year, this $50 will show up as a credit on the January term bill. Then in future years it will be added to the personal allowance. We’re excited about this opportunity to provide additional and flexible support for aided students.

There are seniors on financial aid who have already accepted job offers from Google or Goldman Sachs and whose families make more than $200,000. But, by all means, let’s give them $50 of extra spending money!

Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Updates:

First, you’ll notice that we’ve modified the office’s name to include inclusion – which is a key component of our work. We’re very excited to share that we’re in the process of hiring a Dialogue Facilitator, to be housed in OIDEI. The Dialogue Facilitator will partner with all constituents on campus and supplement existing efforts to foster a community in which all are welcome and can respectfully engage with others. We anticipate this work will be carried out by integrating restorative practices and mediation on campus. We also share several staffing updates in OIDEI. On the heels of her tenure as Director of Special Academic Programs, Molly Magavern joined our conflict resolution efforts as Assistant Vice President; Clinton Williams joined the team as the Director of Special Academic Programs; Bilal Ansari is leading our campus engagement work as Assistant Vice President while continuing to serve as Acting Director of the Davis Center; and Keara Sternberg recently joined us as Assistant Director of the Davis Center and Campus Engagement. All of these individuals look forward to working with you.

Let’s hire more bureaucrats! Just what the College needs. Leticia Haynes is way too busy — burning the midnight oil day after day — to possible handle her own dialogue facilitation . . .

Again, welcome back to campus! We wish you all an inspired, healthy, productive beginning to the new academic year.

All best wishes,

Leticia Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Steve Klass, Vice President for Student Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

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As long as there is an EphBlog, there will be a remembrance of the three Ephs who died on 9/11: Howard Kestenbaum ’67, Lindsay Morehouse ’00 and Brian Murphy ’80. Previous entries here and here.

Much of the trauma of that day lives on.

We are looking for Howard Kestenbaum. He was on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center South Tower (the second building that was hit). If you have any information please contact me.

That link worked five years ago, a constant reminder of the turmoil of those blue September days. It has since disappeared, like so many of our memories. First years at Williams now were born the year the towers fell.

Kestenbaum_Howard1Howard Kestenbaum worked at the top of the south tower, the second to be struck. In the midst of chaos, his was a voice of calm and reason in the 78th floor sky lobby as people waited anxiously for the express elevators that were to take them to the ground floor. They could not know about United Airlines Flight 175, just minutes away from impact.

Wein and Singer joined three of their Aon colleagues: Richard Gabrielle, 50, Vijay Paramsothy, 23, and the group’s boss, Howard Kestenbaum, 56.

Two elevators in the north half of the lobby were out of service, but Wein’s group stood near one of the idle cars anyway; it was less crowded there than at the south end of the lobby.

I’ve left my purse, Wein recalls saying. I don’t want to go back up, but how will I get the bus?

“Here, take some money and go home,” Kestenbaum said.

Singer remembered something she had left at her desk.

No, Kestenbaum said. Don’t go back up. They stayed in the lobby.

Howard’s last moments were spent taking care of those around him. The College has done a fine job of memorializing Lindsay Morehouse, creating an award for the player at the New England Championship “who best displays the ideals of sportsmanship, friendliness, character, fair play, and hard work that Lindsay embodied until her untimely death 9-11-2001.”

Kestenbaum was an athlete and wrestler at Williams. The College should honor him in a similar fashion. Perhaps the class of 1967 might to do the same for Kestenbaum in conjunction with the planning for their 55th reunion. Do wrestlers at Williams today know about Kestenbaum’s bravery? Why not a Kestenbaum Award, given to the member of the wrestling team who best displays the ideals of teamwork?

And then the second plane hit.

A deafening explosion and a searing blast of heat ripped through the lobby. The air turned black with smoke. Flames burst out of elevators. Walls and the ceiling crumbled into a foot of debris on the floor. Shards of glass flew like thrown knives.

The blast threw people like dolls, tearing their bodies apart.

“Howard!” Judy Wein was yelling to Kestenbaum, her boss.

It was Vijay Paramsothy who called back: “We’re over here!”

Paramsothy was sitting up, scratched and bloody. Marble slabs had fallen onto Richard Gabrielle and broken his legs. Wein tried to move the slabs with her good arm, and he cried out.

Howard Kestenbaum lay flat and still. To Wein, he looked peaceful.

Dead and wounded covered the floor of the lobby like a battlefield after cannon fire. A ghostly dusting of plaster lay over everyone.

Wein was soon saved by Welles Crowther, one of the many heroes of that sad day.

Judy Wein of Aon Corporation had also been in the 78th floor. She too was badly injured and she too heard the voice: “Everyone who can stand now, stand now. If you can help others, do so.” He guided her and others to the stairwell.

Apparently Welles [Crowther] kept leading people down from the top floors to the lower ones, where they could make their way out. Then he’d go up to find more. No one knows how many. The fire department credits him with five saved lives.

He never made it home.

Crowther’s heroism is well-known, but there were so many other acts of courage that tragic morning.

“Vijay was trying to get Howard up,” Gran Kestenbaum said, recounting a story a witness had told her. “That was the last I heard of either of them.”

EphBlog remembers Howard and Linday and Brian. Who remembers Vijay Paramsothy, one of the thousands on hard-working immigrants who made and make NYC a city unlike any other? Who do you remember?


Howard Kestenbaum
was a Ph.D., a builder of models, a quant operating in the rarefied world of risk analysis. Yet only a modeller can know that models don’t really matter, that who we are and what we have done is much more to be found in the families we cherish than in the money we make.

From the very beginning — when he accidentally fell on her at a party in the West Village — he made her laugh. He walked her home that night but, amusing or not, she wouldn’t give him her phone number.

A few days later, however, she picked up the phone to hear someone say it was “Howie.” Not recognizing his voice, she asked: “Howie who?”

“Fine, thank you, and how are you?” Howie Kestenbaum replied.

For 31 years of marriage, Howard and Granvilette Kestenbaum of Montclair talked every day, and he always made her laugh.

All good husbands want to make their wives laugh. All of us should do as well as Howard. Gran Kestenbaum desribed her husband this way.

Howard was a really good man. That may seem an ordinary epithet, but Howard thought of himself as an ordinary man — an ordinary husband, an ordinary father and an ordinary friend… He loved and cared for his family, helped friends, visited with the homeless, lonely and infirm. His modesty and leprechaun smile belied how quiet and graceful, without fanfare, the shining spirit of an extraordinary good man can touch and transform others. He would have been surprised that anyone noticed him, for that is not what he sought. And that is why we who love him are so honored to have known him, if only for a moment.

Thirty one years of marriage and family, of trials and triumphs, does indeed seem like only a moment. May we all live our moments as well as Howard Kestenbaum lived his.

How will you be spending today? Please spare a thought for Gran, Howard’s widow.

Every year on the anniversary of Sept. 11, Gran Kestenbaum steers clear of morning memorial services, to avoid the media. Later in the day, she typically leaves roses by her husband’s name on the 9/11 memorial in Eagle Rock Reservation and in Watchung Plaza. Along with the flowers, she usually leaves a note saying something along the lines of, “We are family and we will always be family. This didn’t part us.”

Condolences to all.

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