The wonders of technology continue to astound

Google's Streetview feature lets you traverse the slopes of the Winter Olympics from your desktop.

Best of the Record - 10 Febuary 2010

Claiming Williams elicits reactions - By Taylor Bundy
Lynch also emphasized the fact that Claiming Williams is only the beginning, only a catalyst for discussion on campus. “I think the College has made a lot of strides to institutionally change this place, but I think the culture has not yet changed,” Lynch said. “We’re not attempting to be a panacea for this community. Claiming Williams has not made allies out of everybody,” she said, adding that part of change is up to the individual.

Growing socioeconomic diversity contributes to subtle inequalities - By Yue-Yi Hwa and Matthew Piltch
When the Record spoke to a number of students about their individual experiences with class on campus, most agreed that socioeconomic status is not obtrusive in the College’s rural, self-contained campus. However, many said that it is visible in “little things”: vacation plans, work study, purchasing textbooks, possessions in dorm rooms and choices about eating out at restaurants. “You’re not always conscious of it,” said Mike Nelson ’12. “But something’ll happen and you’ll think: This person has a lot more money than I do.”

Passive activism - By Mariah Clegg '12
However, the members of these groups and other potential activists on campus are held back by two forces: the will of the apathetic who do whatever suits their shallow self-interest and the persuasion of postmodern thought, which holds that all ideas are relative and should be honored without scrutiny. These two impediments cripple the young activists’ will to make change.

While postmodern relativism and apathy are not novel to our generation, they do appear to be our zeitgeist. One could almost construe that activism has been reduced to this: refusing to take a stance for fear of ostracizing others and of being wrong, and appeasing the masses with convenient protests that do not tax the mind, the soul or the heart. We give everyone a pat on the back for having good intentions, regardless of whether or not they follow through. Look at the recent BSU sit-in. It suggested that we commemorate past activists by holding a sit-in in which every individual considers his or her own issue, silently, without trying create dialogue with anyone else. We’re supposed to feel proud of ourselves for such minimal acts.

Prying into privileged places, secret spaces - By Heath Goldman
Once Narver and Lauber found the elusive entrances, they had to perform a series of gymnastics to actually enter. “I would use some combination of keys, credit cards and butter knives to pull back the latches,” Lauber said. One of the main entrances was right under the nose of security in the basement of Hopkins Hall. “You had to tiptoe past the old retired police officer sitting on his chair asleep. No fancy glassed-in security station back then,” Lauber said. “There was a hole in the ground and you climbed down a ladder that took you right into the steam tunnels.” According to Lauber, they used their privileged knowledge for nighttime revelry: “A party would end late, and we’d be like, who wants to go skinny-dipping?”

According to Pete Haig, foreman of Facilities’ mechanical trades shop, the real-deal, licensed men who enter the tunnels nowadays to do things like turn on the steam in late September must take many safety precautions before entering. “You have to take out a permit, have someone stand in a tunnel entrance with a break in radio and wear a monitor so you can keep track of oxygen and carbon monoxide levels,” Haig said. Nonetheless, he admitted that the tunnels are pretty cool. “You can walk from the heating plant to Greylock dining in one direction, to the CDE in another direction, to Poker flats in another and to Sawyer library in still another. That’s sure a darn long way underground.”

Graduation Rates

From Ephblog:

I suspect that this is not so much as race issue as an academic rating issue. I bet that US students with AR 1 have a 98% graduation rate while US students with AR 4 or below are at 80% or worse. If so, shouldn’t Williams be honest about that discrepancy? Would those students be better off at a different, less competitive school?
I suspect otherwise. But, I also doubt that its much of a "race" issue so much as it is a cultural/social issue. If coming to Williamstown and the northern Berkshires is a greater transition for you, if you aren't used to being around so many people with different backgrounds from yours, or if you have a hard time dealing with people who haven't been through the same stuff that you've seen in your life, then you won't be as happy here.

If you aren't happy, you're less likely to do your work. I'd argue that a lack of qualifications isn't so much present as a nuanced and occasional inability to connect with Williams, and that there are plenty of confounding variables that make this seem to be about race, when it's in fact about other aspects of one's background that happen to be correlated with race.

For a school this small.....

....we've got a great deal of decentralization in the student body leadership.

  • College Council, to some degree, makes sense. The school elects representatives who meet regularly with the administration and who allocate a large budget to student groups. The appointments committee also selects semi-autonomous committee members, along with student chairs of those committees. The big three committees: Educational Policy (CEP), Undergraduate Life (CUL), and Priorities and Resources (CPR).
  • Then there's MINCO. The Minority Coalition also disperses funds from the administration, meaning that it lost money that CC kept during the recent budget cuts (not that there's a lack of money, mind you). It's made up of a wide variety of small groups (KoW, AASIA, BSU, QSU, VISTA, SoCA, JRC, etc) that sends Minco reps to the greater counsel, which is supposed to coordinate efforts, I suppose
  • Completing the Paresky student office triumvirate are the Neighborhoods, who send 4 reps total to CC, and who are supposed to represent residential needs to the administration (microwaves and such) and to hold events.
Within these three, two represent the entire student body, two plan programming, and two have centralized leadership (the neighborhoods, of course, have four separate presidents.) Let's go on.
  • The Junior Advisers are led by an advisory board and co-presidents from each class, who pass the baton from year to year. While the JA leadership only controls matters relating to JAs, that means that many aspects of the freshman year are under the auspices of the JA leadership, and disconnected from any of the above.
  • The athletic team leaders run separate programming, and the Student Athletic Advisory Committee coordinates efforts and outreach between teams. I don't know enough about these groups to write much further.
  • All Campus Entertainment receives a substantial budget from CC, and puts on First Fridays, as well as other events. WCFM also does concerts occasionally.
  • Lehman Council coordinates all community service.
  • Gargoyle seeks to take the most concerned minds from each senior class, and put them in a room together.
  • The Honor Committee represents the student body to itself, and acts/is elected completely separately from anything else. It and the Major Advisory Committees are the primary non-CEP ways that students lead in the academic realm.
  • And then there are the one thousand and one student groups, each of which need coordination, as well as the student supervisors of various jobs on campus.
In summary, there are gadzooks of ways to lead at Williams, but not many ways to coordinate with other leaders. Do we need them?

Williams heavy feature in AP story on loans

From the AP (Washington Post):
The move comes a week after Williams College, a private liberal arts school in Williamstown, Mass., became the first school to announce it would rescind a no-loans policy, starting in fall 2011. Williams has said the neediest students will not be required to take out any loans, but it has not announced details.

"Our financial aid program will continue to be one of the most generous anywhere, as it should be, and we are convinced that Williams will remain financially attractive to aided students at all levels of income," interim President Bill Wagner wrote in a Jan. 31 letter.

I can't imagine this will be good, but everyone already applied, and it won't affect those who matriculate, soooo.....

who knows.

There is having >0 time, there is having 0 time, and then there is Will.

I'm going to love all of the stuff I have tomorrow, but meetings at 9:30, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 4:00, 5:00, 6:30, and a three hour rehearsal at 7 are going to be wearing.

I wish I could blog, but don't have time.

If anyone has ideas about why I randomly got Vertigo Sunday night in my room, I'd love to hear them.

EDIT: In response to the comment, yes, this is entirely my fault. In fact, I could not show up to everything but the 4, 5, and 7 things without much in the way of repercussions - but it's talks like I anticipate over lunch or dinner that give my time at Williams meaning, and talks like what's tomorrow at 9:30 and 11:00 that build my connection to this school.

Perhaps I'm wrong to moan; my life is certainly wonderful compared to what most have. But I can't shake the feeling that I'm getting myself into a hole, a little, and I really didn't anticipate being double scheduled. I usually avoid that, but I think it's the meds messing me up.

A bit about Claiming Williams

The events this year were very well-attended, especially by underclassmen (who I'd note weren't here for the Stand With Us business). I went to the entry discussion, the film, Let me tell you a really really fast story, and the final planning event.

Overall, it wasn't groundbreaking for me, but I'm not the desired audience; I already talk about these topics nearly every week, with people of all persuasions, and what I find interesting is that I'm compelled both by those who think CW doesn't go far enough, and others who think it goes too far.

Ultimately, we all go here, and I still have reading to do, so I'll leave the coverage to the capable Record news editor and get some sleep.

I have no time

The unfortunate pattern I'm beginning to notice is that my social network widens, my academic and work requirements also grow. This semester is already harrowing before Class day #3: I had a book and a half to read over the weekend for two classes, and am coordinating two different jobs.


In other news:

Today, as we all know, was the Super Bowl (I rooted for the Saints, Brian Williams style,) and Currier neighborhood was showing the game in Goodrich. All sounds well with that plan: Goodrich has cable, the projector is easy to turn on (if not so easy to turn off), and the sound system is nice and loud.

With this in mind, I budgeted 30 minutes to go and get everything set up prior to Feasting for the first time this semester. (I couldn't go earlier for non-blogable reasons) Alas, it was not to be.

The first problem was that the cable device had disappeared. This device and I have a long history, back from the Election 2008 shenanigans that I coordinated in Goodrich, and I wasn't exactly sad to see it gone. However, this was Super Bowl T-Minus 90 minutes, and the situation was not ideal for missing equipment.

I got the hosts at the event to e-mail my boss and the professional tech, and then set about hunting for the thing. It turned out not to have disappeared (which would have been unlikely, given that it's probably not worth its value in parts), but instead was stuck under the Nintendo 64 box that also resides in the closet.

(Yes geeks, we can play Smash 64 on the Goodrich big screen)

Next up was finding the cords for the tuner. They ended up not being in the back of the tech cabinet, where I was fishing with my hand, but instead on the right side. So far, so good: progress.

Having found both tuners, I took the better model and plugged it in, only to get the infamous "this device is not approved for use" message that plagued me last year. We started to explore streaming the game over the Internet to a laptop, but the combined issues of A - no one owning a PC laptop with a VGA hookup; B - no one knowing that the game would be streamed; and C - doubts about the ability of the stream to be a good quality, made us realize that it was cable box or bust. Or so we thought.

People start to arrive, and I get nervous. We set a hard deadline of 6:15, when we would tell them to go home. The Cable Box, after being reset, works! Hallelujah! I turn it on to channel 80, which is.... the CW. Now, don't get me wrong, the CW is perfectly lovely, but it's no CBS, and I went to change the channel....

...and couldn't. The tuner was very happy with the CW, and refused to move, until I hit the "menu" button, which made it remember that it wasn't supposed to work, prompting deactivation.

Having trolled through all of the faulty support numbers on the typo-filled error message, we finally try calling Time Warner. The rep acted as if tuners stuck on America's Next Top Model were completely natural, and advised me to reset the box, wait 5 or 6 minutes until the clock showed up, and then to turn on the box, at which point all should be well.

The problem was that it was 6:06 - and that we were 9 minutes away from deadline. The security guy helping me out (and I'm so thankful for him) suggested using the cable tuner in the VCR, which I hadn't thought of, and we designated this as our backup plan.

4 minutes go by. The clock comes on the cable tuner, and we feel good, but decide to wait until 6 minutes have passed.

1 minute goes by. The clock disappears, along with most of my hopes. We turn it on, and can't get anything to show.

It's 6:13 and we're going to the VCR onside kick.

We get the VCR plugged up, and it shows channel 3, then disappears to a setting called M-1. We can't get it off this - I find the plug and unplug it, we turn it on and off, and press every button we see. Nothing.

Upon the second reset, we turn on the real screen and someone notices a suggestion to hit "menu." I do so, and what follows is a somewhat comic opera of a person outside the closet, telling me how to navigate a 1999 era VCR menu I can't see. We activate the channel search.

There are 125 channels, and it's 6:22. It's a long 3 minutes, but the channel search completes, I press menu buttons a few more times, and channel 3 re-appears, along with additional channels. I head to CBS, just as Carrie Underwood begins the second line of the national anthem.

You can't time it much better than that.

Why I quit Ephblog

Posts like this one.

White males have nothing to do with this, and nothing about Claiming Williams was construed against white males as a group. Good grief.

EDIT (2/3/2011):

Well, it's typical for someone attacked like that to have a chance to respond, so here goes: what I meant by the above is that Claiming Williams isn't construed against white males, but rather about white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, etc. Does that add up to white males feeling weird or attacked by CW? Yes!

I know that because I myself felt weird about CW sophomore year until a long, long conversation about the word "privilege." What I was objecting to was David taking the refusal to release the film as a reason why "white males" feel unwanted, as if there was a policy against his white-maleness by the steering committee.

Dave, I welcome the post, but a little warning would be nice next time....