See The Wall Street Journal for background on the Harvard admissions trial which starts this week. Best commentary is from Razib Khan at Gene Expression. Should we provide daily coverage, connecting news from the courtroom to EphBlog’s coverage of admissions issues at Williams over the last 15 years? In the meantime, let’s spend this week reviewing some of aspects of the debate. Day 3.

In the last two days, we have established two key facts about legacy students at places like Williams and (?) Harvard. First, legacies — meaning the children and grandchildren of graduates — are about 10% to 20% of each class. Second, legacies as a whole have more impressive academic credentials — meaning test scores and high school grades — than non-legacies.

Is legacy versus non-legacy an apples-to-apples comparison? Probably not. Legacies are whiter, richer and less athletic than the class as a whole. Since all those things make it harder to gain admissions, we really ought to compare legacy students to a “matched” group of non-legacy students, a group with the same distribution of characteristics like race, family income and athletic ability. That would help us to determine if legacies get an advantage or not.

Note that the argument can also go the other way. Consider the case of “development” admits, students who would not have gotten in if their families were not major donors, or at least potential donors. Such admissions are much more likely to be legacy students. But they aren’t getting accepted because of their legacy status. It is their families wealth that is getting them in. They still would have gotten in, regardless of where their parents went to college. Without the family wealth, however, they would have been rejected.

The expert testimony in the Harvard trial tries to tease apart these effects using a regression analysis. We can dive into the details, if anyone is interested.

For me, the key point is the following: Any category of applicants which receives a meaningful advantage in admissions — recruited athletes, racial minorities, billionaire families — will have lower academic qualifications than the class as a whole. If a category, like legacies, has similar academic qualifications than, almost by definition, they did not received a large advantage in admissions.

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See The Wall Street Journal for background on the Harvard admissions trial which starts this week. Best commentary is from Razib Khan at Gene Expression. Should we provide daily coverage, connecting news from the courtroom to EphBlog’s coverage of admissions issues at Williams over the last 15 years? In the meantime, let’s spend this week reviewing some of aspects of the debate. Day 2.

Yesterday, we confirmed that 10% to 20% of each class at elite colleges like Harvard and Williams are “legacy,” meaning students with a parent (or sometimes just a grandparent) who attended the college. Today, we review how much being a legacy affects one’s chances at admissions.

The brute fact is that the average Williams legacy is more academically impressive — higher SAT/ACT scores, better high school grades, more impressive teacher recommendations, et cetera — than the average non-legacy. Whatever advantages legacies have in the admissions process is de minimus. The same is almost certainly true at places like Harvard. Razib is wrong when he writes:

I think the current lawsuit may win on the merits, but the “Deep Oligarchy” is more powerful than the judiciary or the executive branch. If, on the other hand, Harvard gets rid of legacies and special backdoor admissions, I’ll admit I was wrong, and the chosen have lost control of the system. As long as legacies and backdoor admissions continue, you know that the eyes are on the prize of power and glory.

Harvard and Williams have, already, gotten “rid of legacies” in terms of this being something that matters significantly in admissions. Let’s review the story at Williams.

1) Back in the 1980s and before, legacy was a significant advantage in admissions, partly because there were so few high quality legacy applicants. These were the children of the 50s graduates, an era when lots of not-too-smart men attended Williams.

2) Things began to change in the 90s and 00s. First, the raw number of alumni grew significantly. (Williams doubled in size, mainly as a result of the move to co-education.) The pool of legacies doubled in size as well. Second, the academic quality of the students was much higher in the 60s and 70s, which led to smarter children. Rising numbers and quality of legacy applicants meant that Williams could become more choosy. And so we did. From 2008:

Morty [then-President of Williams] noted that a decade or so ago [or perhaps when he arrived?], the average legacy was a 3.3 on the 1-9 scale of academic ranks while the average non-legacy was 2.3. Morty did not seem to be a huge fan of this gap, or of giving legacies such a preference. He then noted that the latest statistics show that legacy and non-legacy are now equivalent (both at 2.3). Morty confirmed, consistent with all the analysis I have done, that being a legacy is not a meaningful advantage in getting into Williams. Morty noted that the way that some people measure this — by comparing the general admissions rate (16%) with the legacy admission rate (40%?) — was misleading because legacy applicants are often told ahead of time that they have no chance. So, they don’t apply and/or withdraw their applications, thus artificially increasing the legacy acceptance rate. Non-legacies with no chance are not given this inside scoop. They just apply and get rejected.

3) All those trends have continued to this day. From 2017:

I [Director of Communication Mary Detloff] had a conversation with [Director of Admissions] Dick Nesbitt about this, and he says it has long been our policy not to release academic standing information for specific subgroups of students. That said, he also shared that for at least the last 20 years, the legacy students have had equal, if not marginally stronger, SAT scores and Academic Rating when compared to the rest of their classmates.

4) I have had off-the-record conversations which suggest that, for the class of 2021, the 10% of students who are legacy have meaningfully stronger academic credentials than the 90% who are not legacy. This is precisely what the trend over the last 30 years would have led us to expect. Williams classes in the late 1980s were filled with smart people. Although I can’t find fecundity data, I bet that there are at least 500 (or more like 1,000?) 18-year-olds each year who are Eph legacies. Regression to the mean is brutal, but it only occurs on average. It is hardly surprising of 50 to 100 of those children would be as smart (or smarter) than their parents. Williams won’t get all of these, of course, but it will have scores of great applicants to choose from. (And the exact same math applies at Harvard.)

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Happy Sunday, Williams!

 

Here’s What’s New in Community Service

 

Get Your Absentee Ballot!!!!

US citizens, make sure to get your absentee ballot here and cast your vote before your state’s deadline! It takes less than a minute!

 

Gas Explosion Crisis Support in Lawrence, MA

This September, Lawrence, MA was in a state of emergency after there was a series of gas explosions, leaks, and fires in about 100 homes. 18 year old Leonel Rondon died and half the city had to evacuate. Shelters have been filling up as working class Black and Latinx immigrant people have nowhere to go in a city that already had a major housing crisis. People need funds for emergency housing and childcare because schools are shut down and companies require displaced people to continue working. Columbia Gas, the company responsible, refuses to properly compensate people for their loses.

 

If you’d like to find out how you or your campus club and organization can support the crisis survivors, contact Soha at ss17@williams.edu. If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so at Venmo: @LawrenceCrisisResponse, Cashapp: $SNVillar, or Paypal Soha.sanch@gmail.com.

 

Berkshire Food Project

Tuesdays ~10:00-1:00~

 

The Berkshire Food Project serves a no-cost meal every weekday to support local food insecurity. We love would to support them in preparing, serving, and cleaning up the meals. If you’re interested in joining a group of Williams students who make regular trips to BFP, contact Wylie at wat1@williams.edu for more information.

 

Volunteer at Berkshire Hospitals in Pittsfield

Saturday, September 29th

 

Interested in going to medical school? Or just want to regularly connect with patients, shadow doctors, and volunteer at the Berkshire Medical Center?! Volunteers can work at BMC on their own schedules (at least 3 hours per week required)! Please note that BMC is looking for volunteers who can commit to regular volunteering long term.

 

Contact lbh1@williams.edu if interested to learn more and begin the process of filling out paperwork and checking up on your immunizations!

 

First Grade Recess at Pownal Elementary

Thursdays or Fridays 12:25-1:15

 

Come talk and play with first graders during lunch and recess on Thursdays or Fridays 12:25 to 1:25. Reach out to Cindy Collyer cindy.collyer@svsu.org if you would like to volunteer. For transportation, contact jswoap@williams.edu at CLiA.

 

After School Adventures at Pownal Elementary!

Mondays – Fridays 3:00-4:15

 

September and October topics include Yoga, Track, Japanese culture, Nature Discovery, Jazz band, and more. Mondays – Fridays 3:00-4:15. Reach out to Dawn Campbell dcampbell@svsu.org if you would like to volunteer. For transportation, contact jswoap@williams.edu at CLiA.

 

Friendly Visitors

Sunday – Thursday Evenings, Friday afternoons

 

Friendly Visitors connects Williams students with the elderly population living at the Williamstown Commons, a residential nursing home just 5 minutes away from campus. Student volunteers may participate in 1-on-1 visits or assist group activities depending on interest.

 

Please contact Julie Ha (hjh1@williams.edu) for more information.

 

Clark Art Volunteer Opportunities

 

If you are interested in getting involved in sustainable landscape management, building community connections through education, performing for public programs, or helping with their Free First Sundays or Start with Art Preschool Program, you can learn more here and contact the appropriate staff person to get involved.

 

Weatherize Low-Income Houses

Thursday, October 18th and Friday October 19th

 

Join staff teams of the Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC) doing basic weatherization and installation of LED bulbs in public housing apartments on October 18th and 19th. Volunteers will meet at 8:15 am at BCAC headquarters in Pittsfield. Help for the first hour or the whole morning!

 

For more information, contact  Aleta Moncecchi (amoncecchi@bcacinc.org). For help with transportation, email clia@williams.edu.

 

Reid Middle School Girls’ Reading Group

Monday, Wednesday, and/or Thursday Mornings

 

Reid Middle School in Pittsfield is looking for Williams women to help facilitate new weekly girls book clubs. They will be reading Weeping Under the Same Moon by local author Jana Laiz. Sessions will take place from 10:24-11:14 on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays.

 

For more information, contact Pittsfield Public Schools Cultural Proficiency Coach, Shirley Edgerton (sedgerton@pittsfield.net).

 

On the Horizon:

Look out for our annual Veterans Day Card-making event!!

 

Share your events:

 

If you have an event ideas or interests, or want to advertise an event that your club has planned, send me an email at mcs7@williams.edu. Lehman will help you plan, pay, and even transport you!

 

Have a great week!!

Megan Siedman

Williams ‘20

 

~Lehman Community Engagement~

 

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See The Wall Street Journal for background on the Harvard admissions trial which starts this week. Best commentary is from Razib Khan at Gene Expression. Should we provide daily coverage, connecting news from the courtroom to EphBlog’s coverage of admissions issues at Williams over the last 15 years? In the meantime, let’s spend this week reviewing some of aspects of the debate. Day 1.

How much does being a legacy matter? First, the Harvard Crimson causes confusion with charts like this:

This suggests that more than 1/3 of Harvard students are “legacy” since it implies that everyone not in the first bar belongs in that category. But that is nonsense! Legacy, at places like Williams and Harvard, has a fairly precise meaning: one or both of your parents attended the college. (Admittedly, sometimes having a grandparent (but not a parent) will get you included as well, but no one counts you as a legacy if all you have is an aunt or twin sister at the school.) The Crimson’s chart presentation, which includes double-counting, makes it hard to see the truth. (I also suspect that some (many?) students misunderstand the Crimson’s wording and answer “Yes” if their mom went to Harvard Law School. Having a parent who attended a university’s professional schools does not make you a “legacy” for the purposes of undergraduate admissions.)

Williams admissions (pdf) are 10% — 15% legacy.

Harvard and Yale have a similar percentage of legacies, as The Crimson reported in 2011:

[Harvard Dean of Admisssions William] Fitzsimmons also said that Harvard’s undergraduate population is comprised of approximately 12 to 13 percent legacies, a group he defined as children of Harvard College alumni and Radcliffe College alumnae. . . . [Yale Dean of Admissions] Brenzel reported that Yale legacies comprise less than 10 percent of the class, according to Kahlenberg.

This is, obviously, very consistent with what Williams has been doing for (at least!) 30 years. I can’t find a clear statement of the percentage of legacies in the 6 Harvard classes covered by this trial, but my back-of-the-envelope calculation puts it at around 12%, similar to what the Crimson reported in 2011 and what we know about Williams.

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Dear Students-

The registration window for 2nd quarter PE classes will open on Monday, October 15 at 12am.  The first 24 hours are reserved for students who still need to complete their PE credits.  The registration period will run through Friday, October 19 at noon.  Please take a moment to look at the offerings and set a reminder to register next week.  2nd quarter classes begin the week of October 22.
Carolyn Miles
PE Coordinator

To Register:

go to People Soft

under student self service click enrollment

click on PE class registration.

As a reminder the college PE requirement for graduation is 4 credits (2 must be earned in your first year) Students who do not complete the requirement by the end of their sophomore year may not be eligible to study abroad as juniors. For more information about physical education and the PE requirement please visit http://athletics.williams.edu/physical-education/

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Dear Colleagues:

We look forward to seeing you at the faculty meeting on October 17 at 4:00 p.m. in Griffin 3.

The agenda and related materials are attached to this email.

Best,

The Faculty Steering Committee & Maud Mandel, President of the College
Sara Dubow (Chair), Division II
Colin Adams, Division III
Michelle Apotsos, Division I
Matt Carter, Division III
Aparna Kapadia, Division II
Amanda Wilcox, Division I

———–
Here are the materials (pdf), well-written and thoughtful as always. Any insiders with opinions?

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Why can’t we just make these e-mails public? Future historians will thank you Maud Mandel!
(more…)

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Why can’t we just make these e-mails public? Future historians will thank you Maud Mandel!
(more…)

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A former Williams professor (and Williams graduate) writes:

Doug in point (2) says that there is no strong trend about class year for students who are caught with honor code violations. I would like someone to run the same analysis for the length of time that the professor has been at Williams. I think that new professors are overburdened with these cases, and not because “senior faculty [are] less wise to the ways of the internet.”

In new faculty training, all new faculty learn about the honor code, and learn that if there is ANY suspicion whatsoever of an honor code violation, we are REQUIRED to report it. We are told that the chair of the honor committee will look into the case and if it has no merit will not pursue it, so there is no reason not to report something. So what do new faculty do? When we see anything that seems like cheating, we report it.

I went through this as a first-year Williams professor, because my students cheated. It was an extremely unpleasant experience that I would never desire to repeat. Everyone did their job well and was very professional, but it was time consuming and not fun: I had to carefully submit the evidence, explain my side of the story with the committee and the student in the room — oh, and teach the student during the week or two between the violation and the case. It was like a trial. It was stressful for me, even though I had done nothing wrong. I was shaking when I came out of there.

(Let me reiterate that I would not change anything about the process; I think it is done very well. It’s just stressful and unpleasant to take any part in a trial like that.)

What do older Williams professors do? They don’t put themselves through that, because they know that they don’t have to. They deal with the issue “in house.” They give the student a verbal warning. (Professors CANNOT impose any punishment, such as failure in the assignment or on the question, without going through the honor committee.)

I am huge fan, like Diana, of the current process and work of the Honor Committee. Kudos to all involved. I especially like that only students vote on the outcome and that only students/faculty are involved in the process. There is no (yet!) assistant dean for the honor code, no paid outside investigators.

We should do exactly the same thing for accusations of sexual assault as we do for accusations of academic dishonesty. Given the number of complaints, we need a new committee. It should be student-faculty, with only the students voting on the outcome. If such a process works well for academic violations of community standards, why wouldn’t it work well with for sexual violations of community standards? (Note that the Honor Committee is also involved in issues outside of academic disputes.)

The more that students and faculty run Williams, the better.

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How much cheating is there at Williams? A student writes:

For those who have never read the honor code committee reports, especially current students, they’re a very worthwhile read. They alert you to the specific kinds of behaviors that actually get you the black-mark of academic dishonesty on your transcript. Some notes about them:

1.) Why are there so many typos in the honor committee reports? Even a cursory reading of these 4-6 page documents would correct for these rather glaring errors. If you’re publishing something that will have your committee’s name on it, and your committee is essential to the academic integrity of the college, you’d think the document would be a little more polished.

2.) There doesn’t seem to be a strong trend in what class years are accused/found guilty of plagiarism. If, as Shevchenko asserts above, academic dishonesty stems from different high school backgrounds, we’d expect for the influence of those differences in secondary education to diminish over the course of students’ time at Williams, leading to an overrepresentation of freshmen in honor committee hearings. There’s many other reasons we’d expect for freshmen to be overrepresented (e.g., students get better at cheating). I haven’t run the data, but there seems to be a pretty even mix of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors being tried for honor code violations.

3.) Professors have tremendous difficulties catching students who are cheating on take-home exams. During my time at Williams, take-home exams were incredibly common, especially in DIII courses, and it was common knowledge that students would cheat on these assignments. When you’re alone in your room taking these exams, there’s not a lot to stop you from opening your textbook or phone to look for answers on a surprisingly difficult question, and resisting this urge is difficult with up to 30% of your grade is on the line. I believe this is probably the most common source of cheating at Williams, and the most pernicious, since take-home exams are frequently major assignments and professors will be hard-pressed to catch students.
– Only 3 students in the 2016-2017 school year were accused of cheating on take-home exams (I would guess that over one-thousand take-home exams are administered each year and the incidence of cheating is much, much higher than 0.3%).
– These two students were caught due to incredibly flagrant violations of the honor code: one had verbatim copy/pasted material off of Wikipedia (laugh, then expel this student immediately for their sheer stupidity); the other two had identical portions of their assignments, obviously indicating collaboration. All failed the courses, no additional sanctions.
– The previous year also had two violations, one with obviously identical material between two students and the other with a student who turned herself in.
– Conclusion: Professors are not detecting/reporting who is using textbook or online sources during take-home exams. This should be a huge concern to professors and the college.

4.) Similar to #3, only one student in the past two years has been found guilty for cheating with the use of a smartphone in general. Once again, among students, it’s common knowledge that you can have your phone in your pocket and then go to the bathroom to use your phone to look up answers during a self-scheduled or even an in-class exam. One student being found guilty of this behavior is surely the result of a very low detection rate rather than a low prevalence rate among students. As with cheating on take-home exams, this should be a huge concern of the college.

5.) Only incredibly sloppy and obvious instances of cheating are being detected. Take a scan of any of these documents; a large majority of cases involve verbatim similarities between two students’ work or between a students’ work and the internet. Virtually none of the students who are cheating in more careful ways are being caught; it’s all the low-hanging fruit of lazy or stupid students who make the egregious error of copying text verbatim.

So, if you’re planning to cheat at Williams, don’t verbatim copy text from an internet source or a friend. This is essentially the only reliable way you will be put in front of the honor committee; such violations constitute a large majority of honor committee hearings. With a little bit of cunning, you can *easily* use technology to get away with cheating. Until the college finds a better way to catch students who are cheating, possibly by banning take-home exams, it’s almost guaranteed some of your peers will be engaging in this behavior and will get away with it.

How much cheating is there on take-home exams?

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An anonymous Williams professor writes:

1) My impression, informed by years of experience (and not just at Williams), is that more senior faculty, less wise to the ways of the internet, are far less likely to catch out cheating on term papers than their younger colleagues. So as Div I and Div II profs get younger in the years to come there will be more complaints of cheating in general.

2) Despite Honor Code histrionics, penalties for cheating at Williams are lenient compared to other institutions I’ve taught at. Even clearly guilty students are regularly acquitted by the committee, or treated with incredible indulgence. And the goals of the committee are often unclear. Frequently professors with incidents before the honor committee feel that they themselves have been subjected to trial and scrutiny. This is true even though professors are told over and over that they have no discretion in reporting suspicious incidents.

3) More on that lack of professorial discretion: Because profs are required to report all suspicious incidents, it is the committee chairs who decide whether to go forward in any given case. Incidents will fluctuate from year to year based upon the sensitivity and concerns of the committee chairs. Any increase in honors cases is just as likely to reflect the differing sentiments of the people running this show.

4) “Cheating is on the rise!” has been a refrain of the honor code crowd since I arrived at Williams and it has grown tiresome, particularly to the degree that it provides occasion for people like Shevchenko to pontificate about what I ought to be telling my students.

5) The pseudo-judicial process conducted by the Honor Committee is largely hidden, with all parties sworn to silence. The honor code hyperventilators thus participate in a system of sanctions that is for the most part out of view, and yet they wish their toy trials to have deterrent effects nevertheless. Thus faculty are enjoined to bang the plagiarism drum in their seminars so that the Honor Code people can have their cake and eat it too.

Would other Williams professors like to comment?

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The purpose of this post is to provide a guide to athletic admissions at Williams. Read Playing the Game: Inside Athletic Recruiting in the Ivy League by Chris Lincoln for all the messy details. (Despite the title, Lincoln covers NESCAC athletic admissions thoroughly.) See this three part series from the Bowdoin Orient. Williams is no different than other elite schools when it comes to athletic recruiting. Check out EphBlog’s prior coverage. See also last week’s review of Williams admissions as a whole.

1) General athletic ability/accomplishment does not matter. No one cares if you won the high school Judo state championship because Williams does does not compete in Judo. No one cares if you were captain of your high school soccer team if you aren’t good enough to play for Williams.

2) Only the coach’s opinion matters. Even if you play a sport that Williams cares about at an elite level, it won’t matter unless the coach wants you. If the field hockey coach already has 2 great goalies, you could be an amazing goalie, perhaps even better than the current Ephs, and it would not matter for your chances at Williams because you would not be on the coach’s list. (She only has so many spots and wants to use them for positions that need more help.)

3) There are approximately 100 students in each class who would not have been admitted were it not for an Eph coach’s intervention. There are 66 “tips,” students whose academic qualifications are significantly below the average for the class as a whole. There are also 30 or so “protects” — perhaps currently terminology is “ices”? — who also would not have gotten in without coach intervention, but who are only slightly below average for the class as a whole in terms of academic ability. I believe that protects are academic rating 3s, while tips are academic rating 4s and below.

4) The number of tips/protects varies by sport as do the minimum standards. Football gets the most, by far, followed by hockey. Certain sports — crew, golf, squash — receive much less leeway. Football and hockey can let in (some) AR 5s. Other sports can’t go below AR 4 or even AR 3. Coaches have some flexibility in terms of using these spots, taking 4 people this year but 6 next year.

5) The biggest change in athletic admissions in the last 20 years followed the publication of the MacDonald Report, with support from then-president Morty Schapiro. Those changes both decreased the raw number of tips and, perhaps more importantly, raised the academic requirements, especially at the low end. In particular, there are very few athletic admissions below academic rating 4 — top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score.

6) Despite coach complaints and predictions of disaster, Williams athletics have been as successful in the last decade as they were in the decade prior to these changes.

7) My recommendation to President Mandel: Create another committee to revisit this topic. Fewer preferences given to athletes would raise the quality of the student body as a whole. The MacDonald Report made Williams a better college. Do the same again.

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From the Berkshire Eagle last year:

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 2028? 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! Two hours after this post went up, he tweets:

How long before Democratic activists start to attack Columbus?

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… may not be interpreted as the justification for making a positive life decision and ultimate path, but a reminder that we need to justify our actions after the fact. If this is a fair statement, than how substantial is the speaker’s claim “… has made all the difference”?

Near the end of my own path of self-justifications, I try not to weigh those actions taken and differences made against an equally viable path and where it might have led and to what differences.

I am left with the acknowledgement of self-justification for the path taken, though with many regrets.

Do watch the animation in the Atlantic magazine reference.

Here are a few moments of Satie to accompany my melancholy musings:

 

 

 

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I will be meeting with finance Ephs at 2:00 in Paresky 201. Stop by and say Hi!

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From the latest Clery Report:

It is a weird world when sex crimes are common and robbery is unheard of . . .

Does the below mean that there were no arrests for any sex-related crimes?

Curious what those weapons charges were about . . .

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Latest Clery Report is available (pdf):

To the Williams Community,

The College’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report was published online in September 2018 and can be viewed at – https://security.williams.edu/files/2018/10/Clery-2018.pdf.

The Annual Security Report discloses information concerning campus safety and security policies and procedures, as well as statistics regarding certain types of crimes reported to the campus and local law enforcement during the calendar year 2017.

This report includes:

· Policies and procedures
· Security awareness programs
· Crime Prevention
· Security of and access to College facilities
· Campus Safety Authorities, CSA
· Possession, use, and sale of alcoholic beverages and illegal drugs
· Sex offenses and the sex offender registry
· Violence Against Women Act VAWA
· Reporting of crimes and emergencies
· Emergency notification systems
· Crime statistics for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017

The Annual Fire Safety Report includes:

· Fire safety policies
· Fire statistics for on-campus student residences 2015, 2016, and 2017
· Fire safety systems, alarm monitoring, and sprinkler systems
· Fire drills
· Policies relating to portable electrical appliances
· Evacuation procedures
· Fire safety training

Together, these reports provide students, prospective students, employees, and prospective employees with key information regarding the security of the campus and surrounding areas, and ultimately, create a safer, more secure campus environment. To request a paper copy of the current Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, please contact our Associate Director for Clery Compliance and Training, Alison Warner at 413-597-4444 or by email at awarner@williams.edu

Regards,

Alison Warner
Associate Director of Clery Compliance And Training

I will have some thoughts tomorrow.

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 … here they are! The movers, makers, shakers, moguls, and satraps of our current delusional, dyspeptic, and divided society.

 

An informal survey if you please , dear enpurpled reader:

    1.  Who on the list have you heard of?

    2.  Who on the list has affected-infected your own personal or business life?

    3.  Who on the list do you consider a force for GOOD?

    4.  Who on the list do you consider a force for EVIL?

    5. Who on the list went to Williams?

 

Please, no offense meant to any reader whose name appears in the listing!

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Wouldn’t Williams be a better college if an excellent teacher like Professor Pieprzak were in the classroom with students rather than writing e-mails?

From: Katarzyna Pieprzak
Date: Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 11:30 AM
Subject: Faculty Essentials Fair and Fall Coffee Hours
To:

Dear Colleagues,

I write to you today on behalf of the Collaborative for Faculty Development (CFD). We would like to thank you for participating in the Faculty Essentials Fair last month and invite you to join us at the upcoming CFD Faculty Essentials Coffee Hours – a series of drop-in style opportunities to consult with representatives of offices that offer faculty-facing resources. A reminder that the CFD is a group comprised of faculty and staff from different “institutional branches” whose primary work is to interact with, program for, and support faculty at Williams College. Some of our primary goals are to streamline programming and cultivate sustained engagement with faculty members.

The Faculty Essentials Fair in September was a wonderful gathering of people. Around sixty people attended, and the feedback about the quality of interaction and access to information has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are just some examples of questions that faculty asked that started productive conversations:

* I would like to have my students respond with video instead of an essay, can you help?
* Can you help me study the relationship between spaces on campus and students’ emotional moods?
* How can art at WCMA relate to my course?
* How can I use design thinking in my class, when I do not teach with project-based methods?
* How can I get word out about a really interesting research project my students are working on?
* Who do I contact to find a culturally competent therapist?
* What kinds of grant support do you provide? What is the process?

(more…)

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Reports from the Honor Committee are always worth reading. Let’s save permanent copies for the last three years: 2014-2015, 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. Below the break, I have saved permanent copies going back 15 years. Comments:

1) The last three years have featured 19, 18 and 23 cases, similar to the 10 year average. Recall our discussion about the 34 cases in 2017-2018, for which we do not yet have a report. Are Williams students cheating more or is the College more diligent in catching them?

2) The Committee deserves praise for being so transparent in telling us what happened and why. Example from 2016-2017:

Transparency is wonderful, because it both discourages future cheating and helps build community consensus about unacceptable behavior and the appropriate punishments thereto.

3) But even more transparency would be better. In some reports (as above) they make clear the gender of the student. That is good! If cheating is more male than female (or vice versa) then we have a better idea about where to devote our educational efforts. Another location for increased transparency is reports like this one:

Besides gender and class year, it would be good to know the specific course, or at least the department. If cheating is more common in Chemistry or in Division III, then that is where we should focus our efforts.

What is your favorite case from 2016 — 2017?

(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 guild 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.

2) In the class of 2020, Williams has (pdf) 115 African-American/Hispanic students. Many 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.

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 about 20% of students are eligible for Pell Grants and that about 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 to 20%, 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 1450, which is the bottom of AR 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! 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.

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Pamela Franks

Class of 1956 Director, Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA)

After earning her Ph.D. in the history of art from the University of Texas at Austin, Franks started her career as a postdoctoral curatorial fellow at Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) and became its first curator of academic affairs in 2004. Throughout her 14-year career at YUAG, she played a central role in shaping and carrying out priorities for teaching, exhibitions, public programs, community engagement, technology, and collaborations with other academic art museums. As the Director of WCMA, she remains passionately committed to the role of the museum in higher education and the inspiration art can bring all audiences.

In addition to new Williams president Maude Mandel, Pamela Franks becomes the new director of the Williams College Museum of Art. Ms Franks brings a long list of accomplishments from her career experience at Yale, as you may read above and here. (both courtesy of WCMA).

It is always a pleasure for me, an old art history major and member of the Class of 1956, to see the continuing importance to Williams of this area of the Liberal Arts!

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From the Record:

Haystack monument defaced, perpetrators unknown

On or prior to Sunday afternoon, some unknown person or persons defaced the Haystack Monument and the surrounding grass area outside Mission Park. At 12:36 p.m. on Sunday, three Campus Safety and Security (CSS) officers responded to a report of the defacement from four visitors to campus, who stated that they were members of the clergy. Three concentric, semicircular trenches were carved into the ground between the Haystack Monument itself and the benches which face it. Additionally, dirt was smeared on the sides of the monument. On one side, a handprint of dirt was enclosed by streaks around it forming an oval shape. Besides the dirt, there did not appear to be any physical damage to the monument itself. CSS has not yet been able to determine who defaced the monument, when it occurred or the potential motive behind it.

“We are unsure if this is a prank or an act of vandalism and have no further information to share,” Director of CSS David Boyer said. The Haystack Monument commemorates the 1806 meeting of a group of Williams students who would go on to later found the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). ABCFM was a major Christian missionary organization throughout the 19th century, sending missionaries to China, India, South Africa, Hawai‘i and various North American indigenous nations. The name of the monument comes from a story of the students taking refuge from a sudden thunderstorm underneath a haystack. The name of Mission Park also comes from their meeting.

1) Solid reporting by Executive Editor, Nicholas Goldrosen.

2) A follow up article should put this action in context by reviewing other acts of campus vandalism over the last decade or so.

3) Is this really an act of defacement? Dirt is not paint, much less destruction of the stone itself.

4) Motives? This does not seem to be a “hate hoax,” a false flag in which a minority vandalizes something in an anti-minority fashion, as with Griffin Hall two years ago. Could it be just teenagers acting teenagerly, with no larger political meaning?

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… making way for a speedy ride.

See here for a purpled reference.

Later up-dates:

(an announcement at Union Station, Washington, DC)

We regret to inform you that the SCOTUS Special due to arrive at noon on Saturday September 29th has been delayed because of unexpected bad weather and an avalanche of public opinion.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/02/trump-mocks-christine-blasey-ford-at-mississippi-rally

(another announcement at Union Station, Washington, DC)

We are happy to inform you that the SCOTUS Special is now due to arrive at noon on Saturday October 6th (or not) (or with complications) (railroading is hard work!).

 

 

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How many Eagle Scout’s are there at Williams? At least one!

A local Eagle Scout received quite a surprise this week at a banquet in Marion.

William Johnson was named national Scout of the Year by the national Veterans for Foreign Wars. He was presented a $5,000 scholarship through local VFW Post 12124.

This is the first time that’s ever happened in the state of mississippi. Johnson had to write multiple essays about his time and accomplishments in scouting.

“It’s the largest scholarship I’ve been awarded actually, so it’s really exciting to have earned a scholarship,” said Johnson.

Johnson will be going to Williams College in Masssachusetts.

Congrats to Johnson. One (sleazy?) thing that he and the VFW may not realize is that, if Johnson is on financial aid, Williams will just decrease the amount of his grant dollar-for-dollar to account for this award. In other words, he and his family will be paying Williams the same amount as they would have if he had not won. Whether that is a bug or a feature of the current financial aid system depends on your point of view . . .

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Purpose of this post, updated once a year, is to maintain our history of the Form 990s issued by Williams. (Thanks to John Wilson ’64 for leading the charge on these efforts over the years.)

Form 990 is an IRS requirement filed by all US non-profits. It is a confusing document that has changed significantly over the years. See here for background reading. Williams only provides versions going back to 2009. Future historians will thank us for archiving older versions: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. In fact, because Williams occasionally hides things that it once made public, let’s go ahead and save the more recent filings: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Should I spend a week going through the latest version?

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From TechCrunch:

Lead Edge Capital, a New York-based venture firm, has been around since 2009, and it has been quietly growing like kudzu since. After closing its very first fund with $52 million back in 2011, it has been roughly doubling the size of its funds ever since, closing on $138 million in 2013 and $290 million in 2016 and today, announcing a fourth, $520 million fund. Altogether, including some special purpose vehicles it has assembled, the firm is now managing roughly $1.5 billion in assets.

How did the team, led by founder Mitchell Green, pull it off? Green’s background may have helped. The Williams College grad . . .

Green is class of 2003. More from the Wall Street Journal last fall:

Mitchell Green has a habit of speaking in machine gun-like blasts punctuated with wild-eyed excitement.

As the 36-year-old founder of Lead Edge Capital, a New York venture-capital firm with $1 billion under management, such frenetic energy and enthusiasm have helped score deals to crow about.

“It’s the energy, right? I have never met a guy that talks so fast and seems to make sense,” said Bill Grabe, a limited partner in Lead Edge funds and an advisory director for General Atlantic. “He’s made me a lot of money.”

Mr. Green’s passion for tech investments has landed deals in Alibaba, Uber and Spotify. People who know him say he is a force of nature who obsesses over things until he gets what he wants.

Getting a piece of Alibaba early was a pivotal moment for Mr. Green and the future of Lead Edge Capital.

“We returned about a billion dollars,” he said of the Alibaba stake.

The article ends with:

Unlike others in the industry, Mr. Green is unabashed stressing the importance of pumping the phones with cold calls. His team of six analysts—he’s adding two more—are cut from a Wall Street mold where relentless research is paramount and 80-hour weeks aren’t uncommon. “We are the only guys running a firm who have done the cold calling before,” he said.

And his rule of thumb on cold calls is simple: If they call you back right away, they are a dog. If they don’t call you back, those are the ones you want to work with. “We have shown up at people’s offices completely uninvited,” he said. “Most people actually appreciate persistence.”

Mr. Green doesn’t like to hear ‘no’ when he wants in on an investment that makes a lot of sense from his research. He’s very creative at finding founders or angel investors who might like to get liquidity, said Mr. Grabe. “You don’t know where he’s getting all this stuff from,” he said. “Mitchell is like a ferret—he’s in every hole.”

This is not something that I will get on my tombstone . . .

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Looking for a Williams connection to the Kavanaugh nomination fight? EphBlog has you covered!

On Thursday, Senate Democrats disclosed that they had referred a complaint regarding President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the F.B.I. for investigation. The complaint came from a woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when they were both in high school, more than thirty years ago.

Reporter Ronan Farrow is the partner of Jon Lovett ’04.

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In the Williams College class of 2016, there were 67 Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) graduates. One of them (Todd Hall) was African-American. (Full list of students available in the course catalog, and reprinted below the break for your convenience.) Comments:

1) There were 37 African-American First Years in 2012-2013 (pdf). Some of those students transferred or took time off. Some African-American students from earlier years ended up in this class. We don’t know the total number of African-American graduates in the class of 2016, but it was probably around 34.

2) Since Phi Beta Kappa is the top 12.5% of the class, we would expect about 4 African-American PBK graduates. Of course, there will be random variation. Perhaps this year is low but, in other years, African-Americans are over-represented? Alas, that does not appear to be the case; there were zero African-American PBK graduates in 2009, 2010 and 2017.

3) A relevant news hook is the “scandal” last spring over UPenn law professor Amy Wax claiming that African-American law students “rarely” graduate in the top half of their class. The difference between EphBlog and Amy Wax, obviously, is that we have the data. (Williams declined to confirm or deny our analysis.)

4) Should we spend a few days discussing the reasons for this anomaly? If the Record were a serious newspaper, it would investigate this statistic and interview senior faculty and administrators about it.

Williams 2016 Phi Beta Kappa graduates:
(more…)

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WSO hackers like pizza. Thirteen 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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