Maud sent me (and every other class agent? every alum? every Eph including students/staff/faculty?) this card:

In the e-mail, the card is animated and features Maud’s signature at the bottom. Sadly, I could not recreate those effects in this post. Comments:

1) Have Williams presidents traditionally sent out such e-mails? I assume that they have, but I can’t recall any specifics. We should gather some up!

2) The card does not mention “Christmas,” which I assume has been the case for 20 years or more. (Indeed, it is almost a quarter century since Williams had a non-Jewish president.) When was the last time “Christmas” appeared on such card?

3) This card does not even mention “Happy Holidays,” which is the traditional replacement on such institutional communications for the older “Merry Christmas.” Is that intentional? Happy Holidays was (is?) considered more inclusive since it encompasses both Christians/Christmas and Jews/Hanukah. But other faiths do not have (major?) holidays in late December. So, is “Happy Holidays” now considered rude? Honest question!

4) “Happy New Year” is no more controversial today than “Merry Christmas” was 50 years ago. Will that always be true? Other people have their own traditions for when the new year starts. Will our desire to avoid offense cause us to remove/replace this traditional greeting? I assume not. The Western calendar is so universal that Williams presidents will continue to write “Happy New Year” for decades to come.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Many (most?) Ephs get married at some point in their lives.  According to Williams Magazine, almost 22% of post-1972 Ephs were “married to or partnered with” another Eph.  (I’m not certain what “partnered with” means exactly, but that probably doesn’t matter right now).  That seems like a pretty high percentage to me, but is not terribly surprising.  As we have heard in the past, Williams offers plenty of chances to fall in love, and the experiences that all Ephs share can also make for common interests after leaving the Purple Valley.

So once an Eph has found the right person, particularly if that person is another Eph, why not tie the knot (say that 10 times in a row!) at Williams?  I did not realize this, but the College has a whole system for running on-campus weddings.  Details can be found here.  Weddings can take place either at Thompson Memorial Chapel or the Jewish Religious Center.  Interestingly, according to the website, only weddings where both parties are Jewish can take place at the Jewish Religious Center.  The other interesting limitation is that only religious ceremonies can take place at either venue. Ephs who want a civil marriage ceremony are out of luck, at least at these two locations.  I wonder if Williams could (would?) make other locations available to the non-religious.

Did any EphBlog readers who are married to other Ephs give any consideration to getting married at Williams?  If you thought about it, what were some of the factors which ultimately helped you make your decision?

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

An anonymous comment in the thread on presidential searches provides occasion for me to give my view on EphBlog’s past, present and future. Come join me in navel study . . . Dickensesque it will not be.

Here are portions of the comment, with my thoughts interspersed.

Alright, permit me to offer another perspective that may clarify Todd’s frustration.

Essentially, DDF has admitted that he’s interested in a particular market anomaly — the relative overcompensation of a specialized type of employee in an extremely complex market. That’s fine, and if this were PresidentialCompensationblog.com, or HigherEducationFinanceblog.com, his perseveration might be suitable or even admirable. But that’s not the case — this is supposed to be a blog about all things Williams, and currently there seems to be a bit of digression.

I have heard this same complaint many times before. Some didn’t like it when EphBlog was too much NigaleianBlog.com or BarnardVistaBlog.com
or MGRHSFunding.Blog or EphBlogBlog.com or DDFsRandomThoughtsBlog.com or whatever. Soon I will be getting complaints about EphBlog being too much CGCLBlog.com.

Now, like any writer, I appreciate feedback. I am curious to know what other people think. I hope that people enjoy EphBlog, both all the postings/comments taken together and my own contributions. But, it should be clear by now that I often become very interested in a small aspect of “all things Eph” and pursue that aspect in mind-numbing detail. Few can compete with me in the category of dead-horse-beating. When I tilt at these windmills, and I plan on tilting for years to come, I try to segregate my posts, clearly stating the topic and leaving much of the commentary below the jump so that only readers truly interested need be bothered. If you don’t want to read any more of my posts about presidential compensation, well, I have a solution: Don’t read them.

Yet the commentator misses the point when he opines about what EphBlog is “supposed to be”. It is not for him alone to define what EphBlog is “supposed to be” — nor is it for me or recent grad or purple & gold or Whitney Wilson ’90 or thegoodson or any other author/commentator/reader. EphBlog is a collective effort. It is “supposed to be” whatever we make of it.

We do have an official EphBlog motto — “all things Eph” — which provides a three word summary about how many of us think about EphBlog. The motto should be interpreted as broadly as possible. We are interested in anything and everything related to any Eph. Of course, there is a sense in which this is impossibly broad. Since Ephs are everywhere and involved in everything, it would be hard to come up with a topic that was not Eph-related somehow. We try to always have a “hook” — some connection, however tenuous, to something that another Eph has written or done.

The best way to understand what “all things Eph” means in the context of EphBlog is to look at the body of posts over the last year or so. The range of topics that we have covered is representative, I think, of what “all things Eph” means to us as a collective. I predict that 2020 will see a similar collection of posts and comments. Adjust your bookmarks accordingly.

What is EphBlog “supposed to be”? As the founder of EphBlog, allow me to state authoritatively the answer: EphBlog is supposed to be whatever the community of Eph authors, commentators and readers wants it to be. If you want it to be something else, then join us and contribute. To the extent that you’d like to remain anonymous, we are happy to have anonymous authors, including me. EphBlog is supposed to be whatever you make of it.

Granted, I’m not being completely fair, because DDF has located his interest in the more general question of ‘What were the qualities of the presidential search a few years back, and what can we learn from it?’ Honestly, I don’t find this question especially compelling, and my guess is that many ephblog readers wouldn’t either.

I don’t care. Really.

Now that may seem harsh, and I do value people’s comments and we all have something to add to the conversation and I am a sensitive guy and blah, blah, blah. But . . .

I am not writing for you. I am writing for me. Even more, I am writing for my father, class of ’58. I spent about as much time on EphBlog in the summer of 2003 as I do now, even though we had very few readers then. Yet I knew that my dad was one. As long as he reads, I will write. Feel free to join us on the trip.

I would argue that the real problem is that more germaine issues are being ignored. I can name a couple really quickly — the issue of race relations on campus and the paucity of minority faculty; the degree of involvement of Williams students in activist causes and the local community; and, as one studly dude recently posted on the WSO forums, the federal cuts to Pell grants and what Williams’ reaction might be.

As a good economist, DDF might say, if you don’t like what I’m doing, go found EphraimBlog.com and do it your way.

Calling me an economist is like asking me if I was in the Navy: they are fighting words. ;-)

More importantly, this is not what I say. I agree with you that all those topics are interesting. I think that someone should write about them, either at EphBlog or elsewhere. If anyone did write about them, I would be eager to read what she has to say and to comment on it.

But if you think that “more germaine issues are being ignored,” I am afraid that you are missing the point. EphBlog, as a collective effort, doesn’t ignore anything. We don’t have a morning editorial meeting at which agendas are discussed, assignments given and plans made. If you think that that Eph student activism is interesting, then write about it. Whatever you write, I will post. Just don’t tell me what to write about.

That’s fine — but I would argue that as someone who has founded ephblog as a specifically *public* forum, you have a bit of a responsibility to at least attempt to reflect the interests of the larger Eph community, and not pursue your own vanity projects. This isn’t Kaneblog, it’s Ephblog. Kaneblog would be fine, but don’t use Ephblog as a facade for it.

I have zero, zip, zilch “responsibility to at least attempt to reflect the interests of the larger Eph community.” Even thinking about the issue in this way is mostly unhelpful.

  1. Does the “larger Eph community” include the thousands and thousands of Ephs who do not read EphBlog and have no interest in doing so? Morty Schapiro, to cite just one example, does not read blogs (and more power to him). Why should EphBlog attempt to reflect Morty’s interests?
  2. To the extent that the “larger Eph community” means the current (and potential future) readers of EphBlog, I would argue that we are doing a pretty good job of interest-representation. How else would you explain our increased readership? Someone’s “interests” are being represented quite well, thank you very much.
  3. Perhaps you really mean to claim that I should “attempt to reflect” your interests. I am afraid that we are just going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

The days before Christmas are a time for summing up and looking forward. The above is my view on what EphBlog has been. Everyone else can decide for themselves what EphBlog will be in 2020. My own hope is that it will be less blog and more discussion, less of my writing and more of everyone else’s. Time will tell all.

Original version published in 2004. Edited slightly since.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Early decision results came out yesterday.

And a special shout-out to the smartest goddaughter in all the world . . .

Congratulations from EphBlog!

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Although the College Fix is not the most reliable news source, I think this is a fair summary of the Chad Topaz versus Colin Adams fight:

Thompson’s essay received negative pushback from her fellow academics, including Chad Topaz, a professor and mathematician at Williams College. Topaz publicly condemned Thompson’s argument, calling it “dangerous.” He also said he would advise his students “not to apply [to UC-Davis] for grad school,” and that he would advise fellow academics “not to apply there for jobs.”

Correct. As we have discussed, Topaz’s initial response was histrionic and inconsistent. How can Topaz recommend that “minoritized” high school seniors attend Williams or that “minoritized” graduate students apply for faculty positions at Williams if the chair of his own department, Richard De Veaux, is opposed to the proper use of diversity statements in academic hiring? The College Fix continues:

In response to the letter castigating Thompson, a counter-petition has arisen in support of Thompson. That letter expresses concern over what the signatories call “attempts to intimidate a voice within our mathematical community.”

“The reaction to the article has been swift and vehement. An article posted at the site QSIDE urges faculty to direct their students not to attend and not to apply for jobs at the University of California-Davis, where Prof. Thompson is chair of the math department. It recommends contacting the university to question whether Prof. Thompson is fit to be chair. And it recommends refusing to do work for the Notices of the American Mathematical Society for allowing this piece to be published,” the letter reads, continuing:

Regardless of where anyone stands on the issue of whether diversity statements are a fair or effective means to further diversity aims, we should agree that this attempt to silence opinions is damaging to the profession. This is a direct attempt to destroy Prof. Thompson’s career and to punish her department. It is an attempt to intimidate the AMS into publishing only articles that hew to a very specific point of view. If we allow ourselves to be intimidated into avoiding discussion of how best to achieve diversity, we undermine our attempts to achieve it.

That letter had 725 signatures attached to it as of yesterday evening, well over a hundred more than the letter critical of Thompson.

Reached via email, Colin Adams, a professor at Williams College and the author of the letter, declined to answer questions about the ongoing controversy, though he wrote that the letter has been signed by “8 past presidents of the American Mathematical Society, four Fields medalists (math equivalent of the Nobel prize) and numerous prominent members of the math community.”

Whoah! I did not realize that Adams was so central to this fight. Well done! But that fact just makes Topaz’s refusal to fight the power at Williams all the more cowardly. If Thompson’s actions are enough to cause him to recommend that students not go to UCD, how can he in good conscience recommend that students come to Williams? Honest question!

The (alt-right?) Williams professors who signed the letter include: Colin Adams, Luana Maroja, Matt Carter, Julie Blackwood, Steven Miller, Joan Edwards, David C Smith, Thomas Garrity, Phebe Cramer, Susan Dunn, Richard De Veaux, Dan Lynch, David Gürçay-Morris and Leo Goldmakher.

What does Professor Topaz think of this?

Who are the “haters” in this context? The most charitable interpretation would be that it is a reference to (anonymous) people who said mean things to Topaz on twitter. I ignore those people as well! A more problematic (but still OK) interpretation would be that haters refers to (reasonable?) critics like EphBlog. But my sense is that “haters” is a direct reference to Adams and the other signatories of his letter, including six members of his own department at Williams.

So much for collegiality . . .

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

EphBlog’s favorite woke mathematician, Professor Chad Topaz, has a new analysis.

In November, 2019, the Notices of the American Mathematical Society (AMS Notices) published an essay critical of the use of diversity statements in academic hiring. The publication of this essay prompted many responses, including two public letters circulated within the mathematical sciences community. Both public letters were signed by hundreds of people and will be published online by the AMS on December 13, 2019. In this research brief, we report on a crowdsourced demographic study of the signatories to the two public letters. Letter A highlights diversity and social justice issues, and was signed by relatively more women, members of underrepresented ethnic groups, and professionally vulnerable individuals. Letter B highlights the need for discussion and debate, and, in stark contrast, was signed by substantially more men, white people, and professionally secure individuals.

Comments:

1) I like Topaz. No, really, I do! Some of my closest friends/family share his woke political outlook. He is also an outstanding teacher, and there is no faculty attribute that EphBlog values more highly than excellence in teaching Williams students. Also, he is highly transparent in his research, providing, for example, the raw data underlying this analysis.

2) Despite his recent arrival, Topaz might play a major role at Williams over the next few decades. Note the blurb on his homepage: “data science, applied mathematics, and social justice.” Topaz, a topologist, has, in recent years, dived into data science, a field likely to play a major role at Williams (and everywhere else) over the next few decades. Indeed, there are rumors that one of the major outcomes from Maud’s strategic planning process is a new focus on Data Science. Topaz would be a natural leader for such an effort.

3) Topaz’s entrepreneurial energy is impressive. He does a lot of stuff! A faculty member told me that, when Williams was hiring a senior mathematician a few years ago, Topaz was clearly the number one candidate on the market. I think that Topaz deserves 90% of the credit for the creation of QSIDE. What other Williams faculty members have done something like this over the last decade? The best analogue I can come up with is Economics Professor Stephen Sheppard and the Center for Creative Community Development. Other examples?

4) Should we be worried that Topaz is a little too entrepreneurial? Note that “The Center for Creative Community Development (C3D) is a Williams College research center.” This is the normal way that such things are organized. Sheppard fund-raises, runs the effort and so on. But Williams College gets a cut and is, ultimately, in charge. QSIDE, on the other hand, seems to exist (completely?) independently of Williams. It is a 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organization. Does it use Williams resources? How do the finances work? If I were a trustee, I would ask some questions.

5) The problem at Williams is not Chad Topaz, a dedicated teacher and skilled researcher. The problem is that there is no one (?) on the faculty who represents the other side of politics in America, much less globally. No one on the Williams faculty voted for Trump while, probably, about 10% to 20% of the students will.

6) And the problem with Chad Topaz is that he probably doesn’t see a problem with this. He doesn’t “debate social justice” and I bet that he has no interest in seeing such debates at Williams, or in even hiring a junior professor who thinks that such debates might be a good idea. Am I being unfair? Comments welcome!

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

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

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Since war came to the West on September 11, 2001, only a handful of Ephs have read these words. Are you among them?

Dec06$04.JPG

My Home Is in the Valley Amid the Hills

Each morning I watch the sunlight drifting down through the pines, scattering the clouds from the mountain sides, driving the mists from the glens.

Each night I see the purple lights as they creep up the slopes of the Dome and the shadows as they fall on wood and stream.

My home is among young men — young men who dream dreams and see visions; young men who will carry my banner out into the world and make the world better because they have lived with me in my valley amid the hills.

Among my sons who have left me, some have caught the poet’s fire, and their words have touched men’s hearts and have bought cheer to a weary world.

And some, in answer to the call of country, have gone out to battle for the common rights of men against the enemy. Some of them will not return to me, for they have given all they had, and now they rest at the foot of a simple cross or lie deep below the waves. But even as they passed, the music of the chimes was in their ears and before their eyes were visions of the quiet walks beneath the elms

Whether apart in solitude or pressing along the crowded highways, all these who have breathed my spirit and touched my hand have played their parts for the better, for

I am ALMA MATER:
I am WILLIAMS.

This 1926 eulogy, written by Professor of Rhetoric Carroll Lewis Maxey, comes from page 136 of Williams College in the World War, a beautifully arranged remembrance of those Ephs who served in freedom’s cause during the Great War. To Williams students today, World War I is as far away as the War of 1812 was to the generation that Professor Maxey sought to inspire. What will the great-grandchildren of today’s Ephs think of us? What will they remember and what will they forget?

1st Lt Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC died thirteen years ago today. For the first year after his death, we maintained a link at the upper right to our collection of related posts, as sad and inspiring as anything you will ever read at EphBlog. Yet that link came down. Time leaves behind the bravest of our Williams warriors and Nate’s sacrifice now passes from News to History, joining the roll call of honored heroes back to Colonel Ephraim Williams, who died in battle during the Bloody Morning Scout on September 8, 1755.

More than 250 years have marched by from Ephraim’s death to Nate’s. But the traditions of military brotherhood and sacrifice are the same as they ever were, the same as they will ever be as long as Ephs stand willing to do violence against our enemies so that my daughters and granddaughters and great-granddaughters might sleep safely in their beds at night. Consider this moving ceremony in Iraq for Nate in the week after his death.

Before there was Taps, there was the final symbolic roll-call, unanswered. “Krissoff,” intoned Sergeant Major Kenneth Pickering.

“Lt. Krissoff.”

“1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff.”

By culture and custom, the Marine Corps is given to ritual and none so important as the farewell to comrades who have fallen in battle. And so the memorial service here for 1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff, intelligence officer for the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, was both stylized and achingly intimate.

The author, Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times, captures perfectly the ethos of the Marine Corps. During Officer Candidate School, our Platoon Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant Anderson, sang a haunting song of blood and sacrifice. The chorus went:

Let me tell you how I feel.
Why Marines must fight and die?

I can only remember snatches now, three decades later. It was a short song, repeated slowly, with emotion. For years, I have looked for the words to that plaintive melody, the eternal warrior’s lament of pain and suffering. Gunny Anderson only sang it with our platoon a handful of times, only when he felt that we were worthy of inclusion in the brotherhood of arms.

The last of those times was near the end of our training. At Officer Candidate School, the fun-filled day begins with PT (physical training) at around 0500. Our entire company (200 men) is standing at attention in the humid Virginia morning. Back in July, there had been plenty of light to start exercising that early, but, by August, the later sunrise left us all waiting in darkness.

Gunny Anderson had the “duty” that morning, so he was the only member of the staff present. The others, well aware of the timing of sunrise, would be along shortly. Gunny Andersen, recognizing that graduation day was near and that he had us all to himself, led the entire company in that song, including the other platoons who had never heard it before.

And he did it in a whisper. We all stood there — having survived almost 10 weeks of brutal training, shouting our lungs out day after day — and whispered the song with him, 200 voices joined with the spirits of the Marines who had gone before us. Nate is with those spirits now. When the next Eph Marine is marching on that same parade deck during OCS, Nate will be watching him as well.

I remember the name of my platoon sergeant from 30 years ago. My father still remembers the name of his platoon sergeant from 55 years before. Let none of us forget the sacrifices of Marines like Nate and Myles Crosby Fox ’40.

Krissoff, 25, a champion swimmer and kayaker in college, was killed Dec. 9 by a roadside bomb that also injured other Marines. Hundreds of grim-faced Marines who knew Krissoff came to the Chapel of Hope, the converted Iraqi Army auditorium, for the service.

“We have a bond here, we have a family here,” said Staff Sgt. Allan Clemons, his voice breaking as he delivered a eulogy. “Nathan was part of that family.”

There were embraces, but not in the sobbing style one might see at a civilian funeral. The Marines put arms around another and slapped each others’ backs — the sound was like repeated rifle reports in the cavernous hall. Navy Cmdr. Mark Smith, a Presbyterian chaplain, said later he has seen Marines do this at other memorials. “They need to touch each other,” he said. “I’ve heard them talk about ‘hugging it out.’ But they want to do it in a manly way.”

By all accounts, Krissoff was a charismatic leader who had impressed his superiors and earned the trust of his subordinates.

War always takes the best of my Marines.

Civilians may not recognize the meaning of the first person possessive in that last sentence, may attribute its usage to my megalomania. Indeed, to avoid that confusion, my initial instinct was to write “our Marines.”

Yet that is not the way that real Marines think about our Corps. Despite defending an independent, freedom-loving country, the Marines are fundamentally socialist in outlook. Everything belongs to every individual. This is not just my rifle or my uniform, but my tank and my obstacle course. And what is mine is yours. See the bootcamp scenes from Full Metal Jacket for an introduction to an outlook as far away from Williams College as Falluja is from Williamstown.

At OCS, the worst sin is not to be slow or stupid or weak, although all these sins are real enough. The worst sin is to be selfish, to be an “individual,” to care more about what happens to you then what happens to your squad, your platoon, your battalion or your Corps. What happens to you, as an individual, is irrelevant.

When the instructors at OCS are angry with you (and they get angry with everyone), they will scream: “What are you? A freakin’ individual? Is that what you are? A freakin’ individual?”

To get the full effect of this instruction, you need to imagine it being shouted from 5 inches away by the loudest voice you have ever heard.

When they shouted it at me, I was sorely tempted to respond:

Yes! Indeed! I am an individual! Four hundred of years of Enlightenment philosophy have demonstrated that this is true. My degree in philosophy from Williams College has taught me that I, as an individual, have value, that my needs and wants are not subservient to those of the larger society, that I have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For once, I kept my mouth shut.

In quieter moments at OCS, I recalled Rousseau’s parable of the Spartan mother from Emile.

A Spartan mother had five sons in the army and awaited news of the battle. A Helot arrived; trembling she asked his news.

“Your five sons have been killed.”
“Vile slave, was that what I asked you?”
“We have won the victory.”

She ran to the temple to give thanks to the gods. That was a citizen.

For Rousseau, there are two ways for a man to be free. First, he can live alone, cut off from humankind but self-sufficient. He needs no one. Second, a man can be a citizen and so, like the Spartan mother, unconcerned with his own, and his family’s, well-being. All that matters is the polis.

A Marine is many things, but not a freakin’ individual.

The article continues:

He grew up in Truckee, Nev., graduated from Williams College, majoring in international relations, and hoped someday to work for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Lt. Col. William Seely, the battalion commander, talked of the silence left by death of Krissoff and other Marines. “When we depart these lands, when we deploy home, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the long silence of our friends,” he said. “Nathan…your silence will be deafening.”

If there was mourning, there was also anger that, as the chaplain said, Krissoff “was taken from us by evil men.”

This is true and false. Marines do not sympathize with the insurgents whom they battle but they do empathize with them. “Clifton Chapel” by Sir Henry Newbolt describes this duality in the oath that every warrior takes.

To set the cause above renown,
To love the game beyond the prize,
To honour, while you strike him down,
The foe that comes with fearless eyes;
To count the life of battle good,
And dear the land that gave you birth,
And dearer yet the brotherhood
That binds the brave of all the earth.

Most of those responsible for Krissoff’s death are now themselves dead, killed in battle by Krissoff’s fellow Marines. Do their families remember them with tears, as we remember Nate? Or are their memories fading along with ours? Recall how the Williams honored Nate twelve years ago.

sa_back.jpg

The Ephmen of Williams Swimming and Diving dedicated their 2007 championship season to Nate when they proudly wore their conference shirts emblazoned with the simple words on the back: “Semper Athlete.” (“Semper,” obviously for the Marines, and “Athlete,” one of his favorite terms for any of his teammates.) Nate would be proud of “his boys”: each of the 24 Williams conference team members had a hand in dominating the NESCAC competition.

Yet how quickly these honors pass. How often do college officials mention Krissoff’s service? A swim team member I talked to last year knew about Nate’s sacrifice and reported that there is a photo of him at the pool and an annual swim in his memory. Kudos to Coach Kuster for helping Nate’s memory to live on.

Back to Tony Perry’s article:

Among the readings and quotations was the classic from World War I, “In Flanders Fields.” The poem challenges the living to continue the fight and not break faith with the dead: “Take up our quarrel with the foe/To you from failing hands we throw/The torch: be yours to hold it high….”

I did not know, when I first wrote of Nate’s death, that his fellow Marines would also be using “In Flanders Fields” as a way of memorializing his sacrifice. Who will take up the torch thrown by Nate? Are there any Williams students heading to OCS this coming summer? Are there no warriors left among the Ephs?

Williams College in the World War opens with a call for remembrance.

Dec06$02.JPG

The text, by Solomon Bulkley Griffin, class of 1872, begins:

The wave of full-hearted devotion that rose in the World War has receded from its crest, as must have been in times more normal. But never will there be forgetfulness of it. Memory of the glory that wave bore aloft is the priceless possession of all the colleges.

The service of Williams men enshrined in this volume is of abiding import. By it the past was made glorious, as the future will be shadowed while it is illumined. Natural it was to go forward when God quickened the souls of men to serve the need of the world, and so they held themselves fortunate.

Indeed. Yet are Griffin’s assurances that we have nothing to fear from “forgetfulness” correct? I worry, and not just because of the contempt with which faculty members like Mark Taylor treat the US military. Consider the College’s official description of the most prestigious prize at Williams, the only award presented on graduation day.

WILLIAM BRADFORD TURNER CITIZENSHIP PRIZE. From a fund established in memory of William Bradford Turner, 1914, who was killed in action in France in September, 1918, a cash prize is awarded to the member of the graduating class who, in the judgment of the faculty and of the graduating class, has best fulfilled her or his obligations to the College, to fellow students, and to self. The committee of award, appointed by the President of the College, is composed jointly of faculty members and members of the graduating class.

Was Williams Bradford Turner ’14 just a soldier who was “killed in action in France?” Does this description do justice to Turner or is it an example of the “forgetfulness” that Griffin thought unlikely? Consider:

Dec06$03.JPG

He led a small group of men to the attack, under terrific artillery and machinegun fire, after they had become separated from the rest of the company in the darkness. Single-handed he rushed an enemy machinegun which had suddenly opened fire on his group and killed the crew with his pistol. He then pressed forward to another machinegun post 25 yards away and had killed 1 gunner himself by the time the remainder of his detachment arrived and put the gun out of action. With the utmost bravery he continued to lead his men over 3 lines of hostile trenches, cleaning up each one as they advanced, regardless of the fact that he had been wounded 3 times, and killed several of the enemy in hand-to-hand encounters. After his pistol ammunition was exhausted, this gallant officer seized the rifle of a dead soldier, bayoneted several members of a machinegun crew, and shot the other. Upon reaching the fourth-line trench, which was his objective, 1st Lt. Turner captured it with the 9 men remaining in his group and resisted a hostile counterattack until he was finally surrounded and killed.

The most important prize awarded by Williams College is named in honor of a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and virtually no one at Williams knows it. If Williams today does not remember that 1st Lt William Bradford Turner ’14 won the Congressional Medal of Honor, then who will remember 1st Lt Nathanial Krissoff ’03 one hundred years from now?

Both died for us, for ALMA MATER, for Williams and the West.

Krissoff’s brothers bade him farewell in Anbar just eleven years ago.

When the roll-call and Taps were finished, the Marines came single-file to the altar to kneel in front of an inverted rifle with a helmet placed on the buttstock. Each was alone in his grief.

As are we all.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

I loved my time at Williams and feel very fortunate to have been a student there. While I have an almost endless list of things that I am grateful for, near the top of the list are the relationships I had with a few professors over the years. Here is a tweet from Professor Sarah Jacobson that illustrates that those kind of relationships continue to this day:

Sarah Jacobson

@SarahJacobsonEc

Dec 2

“Can I brag and be proud that my independent study student from last spring (at the time a sophomore) got her term paper published in an undergrad econ journal? And that the paper had a lovely pun in the title? I think I can, right?”

Here’s the link to the paper itself, which concludes “We need to research policies that will help provide for this increasing energy demand, but at the same time will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

https://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/uer/vol16/iss1/5/

Isn’t it great that Williams has small class sizes where close relationships with professors can be built and magic like this can happen?

 

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Last week, we covered the Williams Record‘s call-and-response series of articles in “The Slutty Bitch Chronicles.” This seems to be the new trend in the Record‘s Opinions section: someone writes an op-ed in one issue of the Record, and three op-eds are published in response in the next. And you say debate is dead at Williams, David!

This week’s call-and-response topic: Athletic Recruitment!

The initial article: “Let’s lose the Directors’ Cup: A call to end athletic recruitment,” by Katherine Hatfield, November 20, 2019.

I’ve heard the argument that recruitment of athletes brings in more well-rounded people. The implicit opposite of a “well-rounded” athlete is a one-dimensional nerd. Academic achievement isn’t everything, of course … But our heavy recruitment of athletes glorifies a particular form of well-roundedness and a particular type of person: likely thin or strong, white and privileged. This value system is rooted in the College’s history as a place for white, privileged men, pursuing their masculine endeavors of physical dominance.

Excessive focus on our athletic program comes at the cost of the stated goals of admissions as set forth in our mission statement: diversity of all kinds, academic achievement and varied forms of personal promise. So, let’s stop recruiting for athletics.

Of course, if we stopped athletic recruitment, we would lose the Director’s Cup. But our athletic program would survive. Ideally, our current competitors in the NESCAC would also stop recruitment so that they would remain fair competition. If not, our teams could play community colleges or club teams at Div. I institutions.

Now, this week’s edition features three op-eds, all by student athletes, in response to Hatfield.

“Recruited athletes belong here: Empirical evidence as justification for the continued recruitment of varsity athletes at the College,” by Charlie Carpenter

Thus, the median GPA of sophomore, junior and senior varsity athletes is above a 3.40; the average GPA of the student body is a 3.45. Since the specific grade distributions of varsity athletes and the entire student body are not available, it is impossible to say where specifically the median GPA of varsity athletes lies – however it is certainly above a 3.40 given that 56 percent of eligible varsity athletes had above a 3.40. I understand I am comparing a median to an average (due to restrictions on available data) and excluding the first-year class; however, I think it is incredibly unfair for some non-athletes to believe their athletic peers do not deserve to be in the classroom when the numbers do not reflect this belief, which was referenced in a recent op-ed (“Let’s lose the Director’s Cup”, The Williams Record, Nov. 20, 2019). Yes, there are confounding variables such as the demographic makeup of varsity athletes, but that does not make the assertion that athletes do not perform as well their peers any more accurate.

By making this claim you diminish the quality and work of our admissions team, who carefully decide who deserves a place at Williams. This is and should not be a decision made by students. I ask that you not only respect the admission team’s decision, but also my, as well as my fellow varsity, recruited, athletes place on the Williams College campus. I would never presume that someone does not deserve to be here, and I ask the same of you.

Athletic recruitment is not the problem: If you want to change the demographics of athletic teams, change the demographics of the school,” by Sarah Lyell

While it is true that certain sports teams are predominantly made up of white students who attended prep schools, the claim that Williams lowers academic standards for athletic recruits is completely unfounded. We do not have statistics which demonstrate one way or another how recruited athletes’ grades and test scores differ from the whole of the student body. All we have is the claim that “some ‘non-ers’ feel that some of their athletic peers do not deserve to be here.” Aside from being wildly vague, is this really enough evidence to claim that athletic recruits are not academically qualified?

From my experience as a recruited athlete (albeit for a low-profile sport), I know that I was expected to have grades and test scores on par with the whole of the student body. Of course, without statistics, I cannot say with any kind of certainty whether my experience was universal. What I do know, however, is that if recruited athletes make up a third of the incoming class and are only a fraction of the group favored by admissions (including, but not limited to, legacy students, children of large donors, early decision applicants, underrepresented minorities, and students with an especially compelling talent), they cannot have significantly lower grades and test scores than the rest of the student body while Williams maintains its spot atop the U.S. News rankings.

Finally, “#whyd3: In defense of athletic recruitment,” by Lindsay Avant

Yes, I was a recruited athlete. Yes, I went to a prep school. And I deserve to be at Williams just as much as every other Williams student.

How often do you deal with imposter syndrome as a white person from New York attending a Predominantly White Institution? Well, for me, I’ve been dealing with imposter syndrome since I was 12 years old in middle school. As a Black woman who grew up in a Black neighborhood, and add that to the fact that I am by no means rich, (the only way I could attend this College Preparatory School was because of their generous financial aid) I’m sure you can imagine how going to a prep school had its challenges. One day a white person will tell me I was only there because I’m Black and the next day a different white person will tell me I was only there because I just happened to be decent at playing a game with a ball. If you would have told 12-year-old me that these comments would not cease, not when I got to high school, definitely not when I was applying to college (“Oh you’ll get into a good college because you’re Black,” and when I got into Williams the only reason had to be that I was an athlete), and, unfortunately, not in college, I’m not sure I would have believed people could be so cruel.

So, I’m sure you can imagine why I have a problem with more people telling me that I did not truly earn my place here.

Any thoughts?

Personally, my thought is that, while these back-and-forths provide a good quantity of content, they aren’t always quality. If I were the Record editors, there’s only one of these op-eds that I would have published (guess which one?), rather than have three articles saying the same thing with varying levels of coherence and persuasiveness. That’s their job, after all, as editors. Still, it does make for entertaining Wednesday afternoons.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Excellent Eagle article from last June about the WIFI controversy.

Student group ignites tension over free speech at Williams College
Posted Saturday, June 1, 2019 7:03 pm
By Jeongyoon Han, Eagle correspondent

WILLIAMSTOWN — At graduation Sunday, Williams College celebrates achievement, but also closes a semester in which a divisive debate raised questions of free speech and drew national notice.

A request by students to create a group supportive of Israel was rejected by the student government, the College Council, in late April, amid accusations that the group’s beliefs did not fit the moral values of the student body.

In the face of complaints from national right-leaning news outlets, Jewish organizations and free speech groups, the college’s president and administration intervened, ultimately reversing the rejection in mid-May.

When the campus comes back to life this fall, the Williams Initiative for Israel, or WIFI, will be a registered student organization, having full access to funding and services available to official student groups.

But along the way, its birth sparked debates over pro-Israeli thought in the United States, scrutiny of how student groups win approval and the nature of campus political debate and free expression.

Student Molly Berenbaum, the group’s founder and interim president, said that granting WIFI official status gives those who hold pro-Israel beliefs the right to express their views — just like any other student organization.

“Fundamentally, we’re really no different from any other political or cultural or advocacy group here on campus,” said Berenbaum. The group seeks to bring a more “balanced conversation” to campus regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she said.

In a move called unprecedented, the council removed students’ names from minutes of proceedings. And the final vote on WIFI’s status was held by secret ballot, a move that limited transparency amid calls for steps to protect student safety.

Steve Miller, a professor of mathematics, said that denying WIFI official status posed a threat to diverse thought and intellectual growth at Williams.

“This is not an institution of indoctrination,” Miller said. “This is a larger problem of shutting down discourse that you disagree with. We are limiting speech, and when you limit speech, you limit the ability to grow and to learn.”

See the rest of the article below the break.

How is WIFI doing this year? Does it have members/meetings? Has it put on any events? Has it received funding?

(more…)

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Professor Chad Topaz’s latest twitter thread deserves a thorough fisking. Key section:

Key sentence:

I don’t debate social justice.

What are we to make of this?

1) I believe Topaz. He has no interest in a debate. (I reached out to him and received no response.)

2) There is a long tradition at Williams of refusing to debate, although it has been somewhat dormant in the last 50 years. The ministers who started Williams had no interest in debating the divinity of Christ. Mark Hopkins refused to allow Ralph Waldo Emerson on campus. Adam Falk banned John Derbyshire. Can any historians flesh out the attitude of Williams faculty toward debate during the 19th century? Topaz is a modern version of that worldview.

3) Nothing wrong with a refusal to debate, of course, if, that is, you are running a Madrassa. Is that what Williams is? I hope not!

4) I have no objection to Williams professors who prefer to have nothing to do with Topic X. Life is short! They are busy with their students and their research. But it seems unusual for a professor, like Topaz, to be so engaged in social justice issues — as he obviously is — and yet, at the same time, to refuse to discuss/debate the topic. Most SJW professors won’t shut up about social justice.

5) I recommend that Topaz’s opponents, like Professor Colin Adams, publicly challenge him to a debate about diversity statements and the desirability of publishing the views of their critics.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

The best content on EphBlog is often in our comments:

To paraphrase the original tweet:

People might not be happy on this holiday; therefore, we shouldn’t wish that people be happy on this holiday, lest we make them feel alienated.

This is the kind of thinking that gets dissected in “The Coddling of the American Mind”. It’s good to be thoughtful towards others, sure, but constructing an environment where the goal is to make sure everyone is comfortable at all times leads to laughable recommendations results like this.

But, thinking big-picture, it’s just not a service to students to shield them from the very normal and easy-to-handle slights that they will surely encounter in their day-to-day life outside the college. If a student is traumatized by the suggestion that holidays should be happy, they might want to figure out a coping mechanism. I’m curious how someone who is bothered by holiday well-wishing will handle their first performance review at work.

The college already lets many of these fragile students take reduced course loads, bring animals with them wherever they want, use “extra time” on assessments, and consult with the growing bureaucracy of diversity administrators who exist solely to reinforce their worldview.

Moreover, the college increasingly makes these well-meaning recommendations mandatory (for instance, the compulsory microagression trainings or mandates that student leaders ask for pronouns).

Nobody wants to challenge something that, on its own, seems trivial and intended to make others feel more comfortable. But this leads to the orthodoxy developing at Williams that the college’s priority is to make all students feel comfortable, specifically those who complain most loudly.

Exactly right. Hey, Anon! You should write for EphBlog!

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Last year, a faithful reader and senior faculty member wrote:

On the way to work today, I saw a group of students throwing snowballs at each other in front of Paresky. Minus the architectural backdrop, it could have been a scene from any point in the college’s history in the last 225 years.

Indeed. I am thankful for Williams, for my parents for sending me, for the time I spent there, for the professors who taught me, the peers who challenged me and the woman who fell in love with me.

What are you thankful for?

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Indeed. I never wish people a “Happy Birthday,” and for exactly the same reasons. How can I ever know what sort of stressful situations they are going through? How can I ever know what effect my words might have?

More importantly, what if someone has turkeys in their extended family? This holiday is a nightmare for them! Have you no empathy?

Professor Sarah Jacobson gets it:

Exactly right. In fact, I recommend that Professor Jacobson stop referring to herself as a “Professor” at “Williams College.” Professor is, of course, a word with problematic roots. Indeed, any word with roots going back to the Normans, among the worst colonialists in history, merits banishment. And don’t even get me started on the Romans! And Ephraim Williams’ attitude toward Native Americans is well-documented.

Anyone who doesn’t want to say “Thanksgiving” should never say “Williams.”

Stay Woke, my fellow Ephs!

UPDATE: The last time the Williams College twitter account used the word “Thanksgiving” was 2015. How long before the official college calendar removes the word? (It currently refuses to use the words Columbus or Christmas.) Think I am crazy? Consider:

Enjoy the holiday-that-must-not-be named!

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

    As we enter Thanksgiving week, I’ve been thinking a lot about college kids and Thanksgiving.  I suspect its because my oldest son is a senior in high school, so this will be our last “normal” Thanksgiving as a family.  Depending on where he ends up at school next year, its quite possible he won’t have Thanksgiving with us in 2020.

I have essentially no recollection about Thanksgiving breaks when I was at Williams.  For my freshman and sophomore years, my parents lived in the Washington DC area, so I suspect I went home for Thanksgiving, but I really can’t remember it one way or the other.  Moreover, for my freshman year, I didn’t have a car at Williams at Thanksgiving, so I don’t know how I would have gone home.  For my junior and senior years, my parents were living in Belgium, so I’m sure I didn’t go there for the short break.  But I have no memory of what I did.  I doubt I stayed on campus (I certainly don’t remember having done so).  Perhaps I visited relatives in Holyoke,MA? Or went home with a friend who lived (relatively) close to Williamstown?  I find it strange that I really can’t remember, because Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.

In any event, Williams has plenty of “programming” for the Thanksgiving break.  Students are free to stay in their own rooms during the break (though they have to notify the College that they will be there an use a door tag to show that they are around).  I think this obviously makes sense.  I imagine that there must be large numbers of students who can’t or don’t “go home” for the relatively short Thanksgiving break.  Aside from the all of the international students (probably 150-200 total), Californians make up the third largest group on campus (after New York and Massachusetts).  While its possible to go to California (or overseas) for a 5 day break, its not very practical.  Some of these students will go home with their friends, but some (many) will stay on campus.

I imagine it might be an interesting experience to be at Williams when it is (relatively) empty of students.

The College also takes care of feeding those on campus during the break, but you’re out of luck if you want breakfast.  The only dining hall open is at Mission Park, and they serve brunch from 11:30 to 1:00 every day and dinner from 5:00 to 6:30, except Thanksgiving Day itself, when the only meal served is Thanksgiving dinner from 11:00-1:30 (presumably so that dining hall employees can have Thanksgiving with their families), and students are encouraged to take out food to eat later.  This meal schedule seems to me to pretty reasonable.  Does anyone disagree?

The Dean’s Office offers to “coordinat[e] for local hosts & students interested in sharing the holiday meal together in local homes.”  I wonder how many students take them up on this.  Apparently the Davis Center also offers “a holiday meal” on Thanksgiving, but I can’t find out any more information about that right now.  I think its a little odd that the Davis Center event is not more widely publicized, but I suspect that it may be geared specifically towards students identifying with some of the affinity groups on campus, and may be advertised in a less general way for that purpose.

The other interesting thing I saw was that the College offers “a FREE Black Friday shopping trip via a 56-passenger bus to Albany.”  I would love to know how many students take advantage of that!

Best wishes for a safe and peaceful Thanksgiving to all!

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Will Professor Chad Topaz’s jihad against the opponents of diversity statements go on long enough to require an EphBlog scandal name? If so, suggestions? Updates:

1) See this Inside Higher Ed article for useful background. Sadly, it does not mention Topaz or any other Eph.

2) Chicago Professor (and EphBlog critic) Jerry Coyne comes down hard on Topaz. Some of his points are good, some bad. All are made at excessive length.

3) Former Williams professor John Drew notes:

Academics offended by the extremism of Chad M. Topaz, a woke Williams College math professor, have organized a petition in response to his campaign to silence a white female math professor at UC Davis. He has gone so far as to try to get her fired.

What was most interesting to me about this statement is that it is basically coming from liberal academics who are for the most part in favor of affirmative action and okay with promoting diversity. The issue, for them, is that Chad Topaz has take on the role of enforcer of the most extreme policies expectations of critical race theory and identity politics. I was also surprised to see who has already signed the petitions complaining about Topaz.

Signatories include the following list of luminaries including at least six from his own college including – Luana Maroja, Matt Carter, Joan Edwards, David C. Smith, Phebe Cramer and Susan Dunn – and no less than five from his own math department – Colin Adams, Julie Blackwood, Richard De Veaux, Thomas Garrity and Steven J. Miller.

Hmmm. Have they really? (That is, do the petition organizers actually check that any signers are who they say they are?) If so, this should be the lead story in the Record next week.

4) Topaz provides an update here. Note:

For those of you who are in mathematics, advise grad-school-bound undergraduate students – especially students who are minoritized along some axis – not to apply to UC Davis. Advise your graduate student and postdoc colleagues not to apply there for jobs.

Shouldn’t Topaz start his activism closer to home? Assuming that the signatories on the letter are real — and I have every reason to think that they are! — there are professors at Williams, even professors in the Math/Stat Department — who agree with Abigail Thompson, or at least disagree with Topaz’s attempts to silence her.

How can Topaz recommend that “minoritized” high school seniors attend Williams or that “minoritized” graduate students apply for faculty positions at Williams if the chair of his own department, Richard De Veaux, is opposed to the proper use of diversity statements in academic hiring? The Record should find out.

UPDATE: Thanks to the first commentator for pointing out Topaz’s other posts. They are preserved below the break for posterity.
(more…)

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

The Record provides no useful coverage on the strategic planning process. The College’s presentation is professional but (because of that?) completely uninteresting. Comments:

1) This is Presidential Leadership 101. Come to a new college. Listen. Create a dozen committees. Seek lots of input. Come up with some pleasant ideas. Start the next capital campaign. Once again, we see that Maud is highly competent.

2) Predictions? Expect to hear about how all the things Williams currently does are wonderful and we should do more of it. The College is a supertanker, which even a president would have trouble turning. There will be a call for more new buildings (starting with a new field house and hockey rink), a constant refrain of the last 100 years. I have heard rumors about a major new initiative in data science, a hot, Hot, HOT part of academia right now. Anything else?

3) The big lost opportunity is a failure to have all these smart people look hard at major dimensions on which Williams differs from its peers. Have each working group pick such a topic (examples below), investigate it and write a thorough report. Ideally, the reports would include the best arguments for and against each of three options, one of which is the status quo. Example questions:

Which graduate degree programs should Williams offer? Amherst offers none. Wesleyan offers a dozen. It is highly unlikely that the optimal number for Williams to offer is exactly two.

How old should first years be? Back in the day, 99% of Williams first years were 18. Now, there is much more variation, driven both by changing student behaviors (the rise of “gap years”) and changing admissions policies with regards to groups like male hockey players, veterans and community college students. Should 1% or 5% or 20% of Williams first years be older than 18? An important question! I assume that our peers vary on this metric, but I can’t find any good data sources.

Should students be required to spend a summer in Williamstown? Dartmouth requires students to a) spend the summer after their sophomore year on campus and b) one semester away from Hanover during their junior year. That is, obviously, radically different from Williams, and almost every other elite college. But it is really interesting! And maybe a really good idea, both in the way that it brings a class together during the summer and in how it gives Dartmouth students a big advantage in doing substantive internships during their junior year. This is one topic where I don’t know the right answer. So I want a group of smart Ephs to study the topic, educate us all, and make a recommendation.

Should Williams offer an engineering major? I have talked to many strong high school students who never apply to Williams because they are interested in engineering and at least want to maintain the option of studying it in college. Our Ivy League competitors all offer engineering options, even Brown! Swarthmore, and some other liberal arts colleges, do as well. Why don’t we? How much would it cost? How hard would it be?

Should Williams offer an finance major? See here for the case in favor. Students at UPenn can major in finance. Why can’t Ephs? Again, my goal here is not to make the case for any particular decision. My point is that a high quality strategic planning process would focus its efforts on these major questions.

Where should first years live? Almost all of us think that First Year housing at Williams — in entries, with JAs, in Mission and the Freshmen Quad — is excellent. But what if we are all wrong? What if a system like Smith’s — first years live in the same houses as upperclassmen — is better?

How many international students? Williams (still?) has a quota for international students. But (in a policy change?), the class of 2023 is 11% international, very similar to Yale and Harvard. Is that the right percentage? Again, I don’t know enough about the variation among our peers on this metric. Which is why we need a committee to investigate, to find out what other colleges do and why they do it. Washington and Lee, with Will Dudley ’89 at the helm, is at 3% international. There is a case for 3% and a case for 25%. Make those cases so that the Williams community can make an informed decision.

Should we have affinity housing? Plenty of other schools do, including Brown. Yet I have never read a non-partisan investigation about well such houses work (or don’t). How many of our peer schools have them? How do they work, precisely? (For example, at Amherst, you can only live in such a house for two years.) How popular are they? Why don’t other schools (like Harvard and Yale) have them?

What preferences for athletes in admissions? Prior to the MacDonald Report, Williams gave very significant preference to athletes, which is why we had an almost unbeatable football team. Now we just give significant preference. (See this interest Record op-ed.) Caltech gives athletes zero preferences in admissions. What would happen if we adopted Caltech’s approach?

As readers know, I have strong opinions on many of these questions. A serious strategic planning process would devote most of its time and energy to all of them, and to similar issues. How are we most different from other elite schools and are those differences best for the future of Williams? Is that what the 8 working groups are currently doing? Not that I have heard . ..

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

The anticipated makeup of the CC-established Task Force (to abolish CC):

Hi all!

Are you interested in a Winter Study course that includes no formalized assignments (except for a single collaborative document produced at the end of Winter Study), getting a stipend to spend on food and snacks for meetings, working mainly at your own pace with a group of your peers, and getting to be a part of an actual change making institution at Williams that will hopefully last long beyond your time here??
If so, then you should consider joining the TASK FORCE ON THE FUTURE OF STUDENT GOVERNMENT!!
We are looking for representatives specifically from a club sport, a performance based club, a faith based club, and a community service based club to serve as members of this body due to your unique and extremely valuable perspectives on this campus. The Task Force will spend Winter Study re-thinking what student government should look like here at Williams College. This group is incredibly important for student life, funding capacities, policy making potential, and much more, both for current AND future Williams students. If you’ve ever thought, “Student government at Williams should do x, y, and z…” then join the Task Force and make your voice heard!
 
We would love to hear from any and all of you that are interested in applying – fill out a self-nom for consideration at this link NOW! Spots close TOMORROW, so if you’re interested in coming aboard, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns to either Ellie Sherman (eas6) or Carlos Cabrera-Lomeli (cc15)!!
Best,
Ellie and Carlos :)
Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Dear Williams Students,

In January 2020, Integrative Wellbeing Services (IWS) will implement a modified scheduling protocol along with expanded student support resources. We’re taking this additional step to help close gaps in equitable access to our services as we explain below.

Because these changes will most immediately impact returning students who choose to continue treatment following the Winter Break, therapists were encouraged to let the students with whom they work know about this new model beginning last week. We’re now notifying all students in an effort to ensure everyone has accurate information about these changes, as inaccuracies can create unwarranted barriers to seeking care.

Rest of the email below the break.

(more…)

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

The Record‘s Op-Ed section seems to have become something of a meme recently, with students giving it an unusual amount of (negative) attention. Several Op-eds are responsible for this (see Op-eds relating to Kleiner and to Mauna Kea), but those are notable in large part because they form a professors-vs-students dichotomy on campus. In contrast, a controversial series of articles has emerged as an argument within the student body: the slutty bitch chronicles.

The original:

In defense of the slutty bitch: Not letting society dictate women’s preferences

The response:

Hold “slutty bitch” accountable for her actions: Being cis, white and privileged is never an excuse for being colorblind or trans-exclusionary

The counter-response

Guilty by omission?: Standing trial: A defense of “In defense of the slutty bitch”

Personally, I found the original article to be pretty poorly written and not to have much of a point, the second article to be over the top in its indignant outrage towards an opinion that really wasn’t much of an opinion in the first place, and the third, while a fair response to the second, just totally unnecessary to write (did these two mediocre op-eds really need a third response?).

Thankfully, something good has come out of this dumpster fire: from the Op-eds section being something of a meme have emerged some great actual memes on Williams Memes for Sun-Dappled Tweens.

And my favorite, of particular relevance to the present audience:

 


(At least one of these memers had to have visited EphBlog at least once in their lives, to grab that screenshot for the last meme. So on the off chance you’re reading this:

  1. Yes, stealing memes for a post is very lazy journalism, worthy of the worst of BuzzFeed. Guilty as charged. But it’s a meme, that’s what happens.
  2. Do student memers want to be credited? I’m not doing so because when I was a student I would not have wanted my name to be associated with EphBlog in any way, shape, or form, but on the other hand it’s your content that we’re…profiting? off of? [Does EphBlog make anything close to a profit?] And posting on a private meme page is not granting permission to have your name publicly associated with that material, so while I can somewhat justify to myself reposting the memes because that’s what memes are, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so with names.)
Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Last time a Williams faculty member was tagged by Steve Sailer? Tonight!

Chad Topaz is “disgusted” by an academic writing something with which he disagrees, so disgusted that he won’t even link (pdf) to it?

I wonder if that argument would fly in a Williams history class? “I am so disgusted by this argument that I refuse to footnote it!”

Is Topaz as histrionic in person as he is here? Honestly curious!

UPDATE: Topaz provides more details on his views here.

(more…)

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

In a post a few weeks ago, I wrote about on-going discussions about the future of the College Council and the possibility of paying College Council members.  Those discussions have progressed and, as discussed in this article in the Williams Record,  College Council is taking concrete steps to implement changes:

At its Nov. 12 meeting, College Council (CC) passed a resolution to form a committee charged with drafting a proposal for a new student government. The resolution, authored by CC co-presidents Ellie Sherman ’20 and Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí ’20, passed by a vote of 11-9.

The resolution sets out guidelines for a “Student Government Task Force,” which will meet over Winter Study in order to draft the proposal. It will present the finished product to the student body by the end of February.

If there are students willing to take the time to carefully consider how best to structure and run the College Council, this is an excellent idea, and a very good Winter Study-type project.  I don’t know when the College Council was last restructured, but in my opinion its a good idea to revisit the structure periodically.  Aside from simply taking a fresh look at things that people take for granted, the student body turns over every few years, and it makes sense for current students to take ownership of an institution designed to be run by them for their collective benefit.

The committee is apparently likely to be structured so that the vast majority of its members will be representative of other campus groups:

CC will deliberate further on the membership of the Task Force next week, but it will tentatively include three representatives from the Minority Coalition (MinCo); two from CC; one from the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC); one from club athletics; one from a performance-based registered student organization (RSO); one from a faith-based RSO; one from a community service-based RSO; one from the Williams Outing Club (WOC); and two at-large student representatives. Additionally, CC will appoint two College staff members to serve on the Task Force, but without voting or decision-making power.

While having “representative-type” members has some advantages, the proposed structure appears to reserve 9 of 11 slots for such members, leaving almost no room for students who are not there to represent particular types of student groups.  I am guessing that such groups take up a large proportion of College Council’s time, but I not crazy about the idea about having those groups so directly involved in reshaping the institution.  Aside from the obvious problem, for example, of whether one athlete can be said to adequately represent all student athletes for this purpose, why are non-community serviced-based RSO’s (as an example) not given a seat at the table?  If it were up to me, I would have more at-large representatives, and make sure that the committee takes time to meet with the various groups while they formulate their proposal.

On the other hand, if part of the point is to give students ownership of the instutition and its organization and structure (and I think it is), perhaps having alums tell them what to do is counter-productive.

Finally, the article states that members of the committee can either have this be their Winter Study course, or they can receive an $800-$1000 stipend.  I’m less bothered by this than I thought I would be.  While I think having the committee members do this as their Winter Study course is preferable, I can see where some students might not want to give up whatever they are already scheduled to take, and could use some extra money.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Former Dean of Yale Law School (and EphBlog favorite) Anthony Kronman ’68 is fundamentally right about the decline of discourse at elite colleges but fundamentally wrong about the underlying cause. Kronman writes:

“Diversity” is the most powerful word in higher education today. No other has so much authority. Older words, like “excellence” and “originality,” remain in circulation, but even they have been redefined in terms of diversity.

But diversity, as it is understood today, means something different. It means diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Diversity in this sense is not an academic value. Its origin and aspiration are political. The demand for ever-greater diversity in higher education is a political campaign masquerading as an educational ideal.

Exactly right, as is most everything Kronman has to say on the topic. Read the whole article, and his book, The Assault on American Excellence. But Kronman is wrong in his description of the fundamental cause. He writes:

The demand for greater academic diversity began its strange career as a pro-democratic idea. Blacks and other minorities have long been underrepresented in higher education. A half-century ago, a number of schools sought to address the problem by giving minority applicants a special boost through what came to be called “affirmative action.” This was a straightforward and responsible strategy.

Kronman is no conservative. He, and the other elites who have been running US higher education for 50+ years, see no problem with having different standards for different racial groups. Who cares if the SAT scores for African-Americans at Williams are 250 points lower than those for Asian-Americans? What could possibly go wrong? Instead, Kronman blames the courts:

But in 1978, in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court told American colleges and universities that they couldn’t pursue this strategy directly, by using explicit racial categories. It allowed them to achieve the same goal indirectly, however, by arguing that diversity is essential to teaching and learning and requires some attention to race and ethnicity. Schools were able to continue to honor their commitment to social justice but only by converting it into an educational ideal. The commitment was honorable, but the conversion has been ruinous.

Consider this 1969 prediction from Macklin Fleming, Justice of the California Court of Appeal, writing to Louis Pollak, the then-dean of Yale Law School (pdf):

No one can be expected to accept an inferior status willingly. The black students, unable to compete on even terms in the study of law, inevitably will seek other means to achieve recognition and self-expression. This is likely to take two forms. First, agitation to change the environment from one in which they are unable to compete to one in which they can. Demands will be made for elimination of competition, reduction in standards of performance, adoption of courses of study which do not require intensive legal analysis, and recognition for academic credit of sociological activities which have only an indirect relationship to legal training. Second, it seems probable that this group will seek personal satisfaction and public recognition by aggressive conduct, which, although ostensibly directed at external injustices and problems, will in fact be primarily motivated by the psychological needs of the members of the group to overcome feelings of inferiority caused by lack of success in their studies. Since the common denominator of the group of students with lower qualifications is one of race this aggressive expression will undoubtedly take the form of racial demands — the employment of faculty on the basis of race, a marking system based on race, the establishment of a black curriculum and a black law journal, an increase in black financial aid, and a rule against expulsion of black students who fail to satisfy minimum academic standards.

It was obvious, in 1969, that different standards would lead to disaster. And here we are today. Even if the reasoning behind Bakke were different, even if the courts had never mentioned “diversity” as a rational, all the pathologies forecast by Fleming would have played out just as they have. Once you decide that objective standards are not necessary for admissions, it will be impossible to keep them anywhere else. Sacrifice “excellence” there and, over time, you will lose excellence everywhere. For Kronman to blame Bakke for this sad state of affairs is mere deflection. It is he, and elite education leaders like him, who are at fault.

How bad would Williams/Yale have to become before Kronman reconsiders the wisdom of affirmative action in admissions?

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

Wall Street Journal college rankings are probably the most serious competitor to US News.

New York Times article on rising tensions between two groups of African-Americans: those descended from American slaves and those not (mainly immigrants and their children).

Roughly 10 percent of the 40 million black people living in the United States were born abroad, according to the Pew Research Center, up from 3 percent in 1980. African immigrants are more likely to have college degrees than blacks and whites who were born in the United States.

A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Education found that 41 percent of black freshmen at Ivy League colleges were immigrants or the children of immigrants, even though those groups represent 13 percent of the black population in the United States.

What percentage of African-Americans at Williams have no American slaves among their ancestors? Any tensions along this dimension at Williams yet?

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

abl writes, in explaining the differential status of men/women in math and, therefore, the need to active efforts to ensure equal male/female representation on panels at math conferences:

[T]here’s a long history of discrimination in math against everyone who is not cis male (at essentially all levels of education).

Tell us this history! But be specific! Who, at Williams, has been discriminating against women in math? Maud Mandel has only been here at year, but maybe she has been discriminating. Maybe she has been unfairly attacking female applicants for faculty positions, insisting on hiring less qualified men. What about Professor Allison Pacelli? Has she been abusing female math majors for the last 15 years, mocking them in class and belittling them in private? Tell us those stories!

Perhaps this “long history of discrimination” goes back further and reaches higher in the Administration. Nancy Roseman was Dean of the College in the early oughts. She was probably forcing female undergraduates to switch majors out of math. Cappy Hill ’76 was Provost back in the 90s. Was she diverting funding away from female math faculty and toward male math faculty? Probably!

And no doubt other institutions were even worse. Harvard under Drew Faust was infamous for its Mock-a-Female-Mathematician events. Mount Greylock High School, with a majority female teaching staff for, oh, 100+ years or so, didn’t give math books to female students. And on and on.

Let me rewrite abl’s tendentious claim:

[T]here’s a long history of vodoo in math against everyone who is not cis male (at essentially all levels of education).

Could be true! What else could explain differential performance between men and women in math? If there is a difference — and there sure is! — voodoo (or a long history of (invisible) discrimination) must be the explanation. What else could it be!

See Slate Star Codex for further thoughts, as well as this EphBlog classic from a decade ago. Perhaps that should be an annual post . . .

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

To the Williams community,

For the last year, members of the Williams community have been discussing how best to live up to our obligation to ensure both free expression and inclusion. Today I’m sharing a statement developed by the Faculty Steering Committee with my input, and reviewed with the faculty as a whole, that affirms our commitment to those core principles.

The essence of the statement is this: Freedom of expression and inquiry matters. Inclusion matters. Both values are essential to the health of any community, and especially to a healthy learning community. For Williams to continue reaching its highest educational aspirations, we need to maximize our commitment to both values. We need to run toward the hard things.

I’ve been gratified by the intelligence and passion that many of you have shown in discussing, debating and sometimes protesting this most crucial issue. My job as president is to guide that energy into helping Williams excel: delivering the best liberal arts education imaginable, and preparing graduates to set the standard for civic virtue and engagement.

I want to thank Steering for their careful work, as well as the faculty members who offered their views on the drafts, the Ad Hoc Committee upon whose report the statement is based, the people who worked to ensure that our college policies reflect our values, and all of you—students, staff and faculty—who added your views to the discussion.

Maud

=============

MEMORANDUM

To: The Faculty
From: The Steering Committee and President Mandel
Date: November 13, 2019

Inquiry, Expression and Inclusion at Williams College

At Williams, our educational mission requires us to cultivate an inclusive environment in which each member of our community is equally respected and equally invited to speak and to be heard. This goal unites the college’s core commitments to freedom of expression and inquiry and to building a community in which everyone can live, learn and thrive, as enunciated in our codes of conduct for faculty, staff and students.

The college extends the same opportunities for expression and debate to anyone invited to speak or participate in a college event. Visitors are welcomed and expected to participate in open discussion and robust deliberation while they are on campus. We expect anyone inviting an outside speaker to create such opportunities as part of the visit.

The college publishes clear administrative procedures for event planning and rules for the use of college property. The college likewise retains the discretion to impose reasonable limitations on the time, place and manner of speech by visitors to our community as well as by its continuing members. The college exercises this authority sparingly, and never with the goal of suppressing a point of view.

Williams College does not consider an invitation to campus an endorsement of the visitor’s views. Further, in our encouragement of vigorous dialogue and the free exchange of ideas, we acknowledge that discomforting encounters will occur. In that knowledge, we will continue expanding ways to offer support to all individuals and groups within our community, as part of our mission to equip every community member with the tools they need for effective discourse, debate and dissent. We also recognize that free expression has its limits: speech that threatens, incites violence, or constitutes harassment has no place in our community.

Our policies, which are intended to protect and promote the freedom of every community member to communicate, debate and peacefully protest, can be found here. We recognize that in the past these freedoms have not been equally available to all people and that inequity of access persists today. The college is committed to supporting equal access to these freedoms and pledges to continue working to realize this commitment fully.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

From the Williams Record this week:

“In the wake of a student-led protest which called for students to boycott all English classes that “do not engage substantially with race,” Chair and Professor of English Katie Kent ’88 reported that pre-registration in the department was not substantially changed from previous years. “Our enrollments show no significant difference when compared to our usual averages over the last few semesters,” she said.”

As expressed in my post last week (particularly through the comments), I’m in general support of the message of the boycott. Nevertheless, I’m not surprised. English majors continue to need to take English classes; non-majors continue to need writing intensives, and though there are many possibilities for these, English classes continue to be among the most interesting and accessible. Life at the college continues. The point, in my opinion, was never to succeed in boycotting, but to use something as extreme-sounding as a boycott to bring attention to what’s seen as the desperate need of improvement in the department.

On Thursday, the English department announced plans to hold a series of meetings regarding the department’s culture. The meetings are sponsored by the newly created “student experience committee,” which aims to collect student perspectives on the department. In an email to English majors and other students, Associate Professor of English Bernie Rhie said, “As the name of the committee suggests, our aim is to get a more textured sense of the ways that students at Williams experience the English Department. What are your thoughts and feelings about the department, and what are your hopes for its future?” Rhie added that, though the committee was formed prior to the boycott, “the announcement of the boycott obviously makes our work all the more urgent.”

Do I believe that this committee will make any more of an impact than the average Williams committee? Not necessarily. But it does reinforce for me that professors like Bernie–whom I see as the future of the department, and among those who will have the most say in what the English department becomes–take at least the message of the boycott seriously. Perhaps I’m reading that more from my own experience with Bernie than from the quote, but all the same, I believe this is a matter that certain members of the English department take seriously. Whether or not it’s a problem that can be solved by committee, knowing that there are members of the department who support it is, personally, enough–because that’s really the way I see things potentially starting to change.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

From Math Professor Chad Topaz:

Here at QSIDE, we wake up early, drink coffee, and write these:

Hi organizers [of a one-day conference],

Thanks so much for organizing this event. I know it takes a lot of work to pull it off.

I do want to bring up one concern. If I am wrong in my assessment, please forgive me and ignore the rest of this email, but it seems all the speakers are liberal. It’s disappointing to see the many excellent not-liberals excluded from participating as speakers, and moreover, it sends a really discouraging message to any attendees who aren’t liberals.

I hope you might find a way to bring political diversity to your set of speakers. There are lots of great, effective practices for speaker selection that would result in a more politically-diverse program.

Thanks for hearing me out on this, and thanks again for the work you do to put it all together.

Cheers,
Chad

1) How wonderfully (passive) aggressive! Not that there is anything wrong with that!

2) Does Topaz send these out to colleagues organizing such conferences at Williams? Kudos to him if he does! The more thought put into panel selection, the better. EphBlog has been complaining about the lack of political diversity on panels at Williams for decades!

3) If you were a junior member of Topaz’s department, what would you think? EphBlog’s advice would be to follow Topaz’s suggestions! They are sensible (or, at least, not nonsensical) and, more importantly, he will be voting on your tenure in a few years.

4) How would you feel if you were organizing a conference at, say, Harvard and some rando from Williams sent you this e-mail? Good question! Perhaps our academic friends like dcat and sigh might opine.

5) I would chuckle, then ignore it. Does Topaz really think that I am unaware of political diversity and its importance? What wonderful arrogance from some nobody teaching at a jumped-up prep school! Putting together conferences is difficult, balancing participant priorities is hard, and even getting people to agree to come is annoying. The last thing I want to deal with is somebody who isn’t even attending the conference kvetching about his personal hobbyhorse. Of course, at the end of the conference, I will seek opinions from the attendees to see how we might improve things next year and, if others share Topaz’s (idiosyncratic?) views, I will try to adjust, subject to all the other constraints I need to deal with.

More:

(more…)

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »