Paul Williams, a Swarthmore ex-student and the “Father of Rock Criticism,” died March 27 at the age of 64.
As a freshman at Swarthmore in 1996, Williams founded Crawdaddy – a magazine devoted to criticism and discussion of rock music. Williams created the magazine as a way to fill the analytical gaps that existed in music journalism back then; “Crawdaddy will feature neither pin-ups nor news-briefs; the specialty of this magazine is intelligent writing,” he wrote in a statement published by the New York Times.
Peter Knobler, who became editor of Crawdaddy in the ’70s, described the journalism Mr. Williams developed as a combination of music criticism and close-up reportage about the gathering societal storm that came to be known as the counterculture.
“The music was part of all that, and the writing reflected it,” Mr. Knobler said in an interview on Friday. “It was generational, political, all about this new thing, the youth culture. That was Paul’s vision.”
Robert Christgau, the veteran rock critic formerly with The Village Voice, said rock ’n’ roll writing was indebted to Mr. Williams and his magazine “for its very existence.”
Until Crawdaddy, Mr. Christgau said, the sort of dense, almost literary analysis it ran about groups like Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and the Doors was simply “not a possibility.”
That conversational intimacy, contagious delight and dogged pursuit of revelation defined Williams’ style as a critic – and also made him more than that. He wrote with judgment but not superiority or lazy censure; he worked to find paths and connections, through committed, often repeated listening, and presented the results as if you were a fellow traveler, not just a reader.
Two teenagers were convicted yesterday in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case that has garnered national attention. 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma’lik Richmond were found guilty of raping an intoxicated teenage girl at a house party last August and were both sentenced to at least one year in the state juvenile system.
This case has been particularly notable for the central role of social media. Last fall, news of the assault spread quickly among Steubenville teenagers via text messages and social media updates; these were the primary sources of evidence considered during the trial. The New York Times reported yesterday:
Judge Lipps described much of the evidence as “profane and ugly.” […]. He also said the case was a cautionary lesson in how teenagers conduct themselves when alcohol is present and in “how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today.”
The trial also exposed the behavior of other teenagers, who wasted no time spreading photos and text messages with what many in the community felt was callousness or cruelty.
Even now, social media influence continues to burgeon at the fringes of this case. This afternoon, two teenage girls were arrested in Steubenville for allegedly posting threatening messages to the victim over Facebook and Twitter.
Response to media coverage has sparked discussion of national attitudes toward rape and rape culture on websites such as Feministing. Some discussion has focused on the role of athletic teams in cases of sexual assault. Ohio State University’s The Lantern published an opinion piece in January criticizing American sports teams’ cultural ties to assault. Sports writer for The Nation Dave Zirin also commented this week on the influence of “jock culture” on sexual assault, and on the changes he and many others hope to see, in locker room conduct as well as in national attitudes:
In thinking about Steubenville, thinking about my own experiences playing sports, thinking about athletes I’ve interviewed and know, I believe that a locker room left to its own devices will drift toward becoming a breeding ground for rape culture. […] As such, a coach or a player willing to stand up, risk ridicule and actually teach young men not to rape, can make all the difference in the world. We need interventionist, transformative coaches in men’s sports that talk openly about these issues. We need an economic setup in amateur sports that does away with their gutter economy. But most of all, we need people who recognize the existence of rape culture, both on and off teams, to no longer be silent.
During her second week as President of Colgate University, a student approached President Rebecca Chopp and told her to remember that she was not allowed to step foot on even the front lawn of his fraternity house. One year later, she bought that lawn, that house, and all other fraternity and sorority houses.
Motivated by a host of problems including sexual misconduct, hazing, dangerous drinking, poorly maintained facilities, and a virulent relationship between administrators and Greek institutions, Colgate sought to reign in Greek life by buying their houses and bringing them under University control. In 2003, Colgate University, under Chopp’s leadership, gave the fraternities and sororities an ultimatum: either sell their houses to the University or lose their recognition. If students participated in non-recognized chapters behind the University’s back, they could face expulsion.
Colgate’s Spokesman James Leach told USA Today, “There have been sexual assaults, hazing, violent fights and a pattern of problems over the years. Many people thought change was necessary. The task force looked at several options, including eliminating the Greek system. Instead, it recommended a way for the university to assert greater control, and still give students authority over their operations.”
The move to buy was officially part of the University’s “New Vision” strategic plan that required all students except for a select 250 seniors to live in college housing. At the time Colgate’s eight fraternities and two sororities with active chapters housed up to 35-40 students each. In an interview with The Daily Gazette, Chopp said the number of students allowed to live off campus was set by the town of Hamilton, which had complained about student party culture and asked that the University provide housing for all but a couple hundred of its students.
Chopp described the move as a way of improving relations between Greek institutions and the University and as part of a movement of colleges and universities across the country. The fraternities and sororities would be able to remain in their houses as Greek institutions but would simply be incorporated into the University’s student housing. With the money they earned from the sale, the alumni associations could fund programming, scholarships, or as the University suggested to some, donate the funds back to the University.
Chopp said the University’s main concerns were the poorly maintained fraternity houses and large basement party rooms with insufficient exits. Coming under the University’s umbrella would not only allow the College to appoint Greek advisors who could enter Greek spaces, but would also help the College to maintain the facilities. The University would also employ a cook, since the fraternities and sororities were in charge of feeding their members.
“The desire was not to get to that point. Our hope was that by being able to have Greek advisors, janitors, [and] cooks, we could establish ongoing relationships,” Chopp said. “It’s always better to prevent these things than to have to come and be the heavy hand of discipline at the end.”
The university had several tragic events in its recent memory. Most notably in 2000, Delta Kappa Epsilon was suspended for a year after one of its brothers drove under the influence and crashed into a tree, killing four people and landing himself in prison for vehicular manslaughter. In 2002, the University suspended Beta Theta Pi for several semesters after an 18-year-old student had to be rushed to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. In 2003, the University banned Kappa Delta Rho for hazing students and suspended three of its members.
“I think that Colgate very much felt responsible when a situation arose, and situations had arisen, and they hit The New York Times where students were hurt and the University felt responsible,” Chopp said. “No oversight, no responsibility, no support would not be a responsible thing for a college to do.”
Colgate entered into negotiations with its eight fraternities and two sororities, then owned by non-local alumni associations, and bought every single house for more than its appraised value, except one. According to court records, Colgate offered the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) $750,000 for its house, but they refused to sell. Instead they sued.
Stating the University was violating anti-trust laws by instituting a monopoly on student housing, DKE, whose notable alumni include both Bush presidents, took Colgate to court in 2005. By that time, the houses had already been empty for two years. Colgate revoked their recognition in the fall of 2003, prohibiting them from pledging new members and banning all students who lived in the DKE house from enrolling for the next academic year. The brothers moved out, and the house stayed empty during the ensuing four-year-long battle with the University.
Students and alumni were both vocally against the move. In 2005, 300 students protested the University’s decision. Colgate Trustee and Phi Delta Theta Brother Charles H. Sanford III ‘58, listed by the University as a member of its most elite group of donors, urged the trustees against its move and sued the University on behalf of his fraternity. A real estate mogul with a fieldhouse bearing his name, he withdrew a pledged $15 million to the University for what he called “social engineering gone awry.” Alumni from Beta Theta Pi also filed a similar suit, stating that they were forced to sell under threats of economic duress. Both lost in court.
In 2007 the courts sided with Colgate and DKE sold its house to the University but did not return to campus. According to Colgate’s official campus map, the Delta Kappa Epsilon house now houses the Leadership Options for Tomorrow (LOFT) program, a program for first-year students interested in leadership.
In comparing Colgate and Swarthmore’s Greek cultures, Chopp said the differences are stark. For one, about 40 percent of the Colgate student body was a part of a Greek letter institution, a number even more considerable when taking into account that freshman at Colgate are not allowed to pledge. Colgate did not accept women until the 1970s, which continues to shape its culture today, Chopp said.
Many of the changes made at Colgate already exist at Swarthmore. The College’s fraternities are non-residential, both the fraternities and sorority have Greek advisors employed by the College, and the College owns and maintains the fraternity buildings.
Chopp said Swarthmore has a culture of openness that shapes its relationship to Greek life.
“No one has said to me I couldn’t go in. I probably wouldn’t go in. Administrators and faculty don’t walk into student dorms either,” Chopp said. “We try to respect the kind of autonomy of the student space but if there were an emergency we could go in.”
The Westboro Baptist Church (of funeral-picketing infamy) plans to protest at Vassar College this afternoon from 1:45 until 2:30 p.m. Citing the college’s LGBT-friendly attitude as the “satanic zeitgeist” it aims to protest, the Topeka, Kansas-based church (WBC) announced its intentions to picket at the Poughkeepsie, New York campus on its website earlier this month.
The protest plans have inspired massive response from the Vassar College community. Within hours of the WBC’s announcement, 2008 Vassar alumnus Josh De Leeuw had started a fundraising effort on CrowdRise.com, a web tool for charities, aiming to raise $4,500—$100 for every minute of the protest—to benefit The Trevor Project, an organization aiding at-risk LGBT youth.
As of yesterday evening, De Leeuw’s initiative had raised over $91,000.
Social media have propagated widespread awareness and response among the campus community. Over Twitter, students and alumni expressed pride in their school’s having gained recognition as an LGBT-friendly institution, and encouraged donations toward The Trevor Project.
Current Vassar students, including Cory Epstein ’13, organized the group Do Something VC in the spirit of countering the protest’s efforts. According to its website, the group “takes peaceful and thoughtful action to promote equality, acceptance, and social justice through dialogue, outreach, education, art, and the media.”
According to one Vassar student who asked to remain anonymous, the campus community, especially the efforts of Do Something VC, have reflected a response “supporting [Vassar College] values and not about bashing WBC.” Do Something VC has organized a variety of counter-protest initiatives, including theater and visual arts pieces to reflect faith-based values of love and acceptance. They intend for this afternoon’s counter-protest response to be “peaceful and inclusive.” Indeed, the events slated for the day, including keynote speakers, forming a human chain around Vassar’s Main Building, and a collective “joyful scream,” reflect a community-oriented attitude.
The possibility stands that the Westboro protestors will not show up at all. Some of their past plans never materialized. If they do protest Vassar today, they will not be allowed on campus, and a recent editorial by Vassar student April Levins in Vassar’s Miscellany News advised students to expect a “lethargic protest” featuring few protestors and not much panache.
Regardless, response both on- and off-campus to the possibility of a protest has reflected the Vassar community’s dedication to the very values to which the WBC objects. With over $91,000 raised for The Trevor Project and the establishment of a campus group to facilitate discussions on acceptance and awareness, recent weeks have served as a reminder to Vassar students of the strength of their community.
Swarthmore isn’t the only college that’s faced issues of hate speech on campus this year. Last Sunday, a student at Williams College reported the word “fag” had been scratched into one of the doors in a residence hall. In a letter to the editor of the Williams Record, Samuel Flinn, the one who’s door was vandalized, speaks out against the act and addresses the heteronormative structures of the college.
When I first discovered the word “fag” inscribed in large letters into the door of my room, I felt not afraid but annoyed. I do not know the intent of the person who performed what I consider to be a hate crime, and I hope whoever did it finds the strength to seek help. . . . This attack, along with countless others in Williams’ history, has sparked a familiar set of discussions and an endless pattern of reactions. But we almost instantly forget about them because we often pay more attention to our academic well-beings than each others’. We – students, faculty and staff – are overworked. There is not enough time to have conversations about the numerous ways discrimination has been systematically interwoven into this institution’s history. No one makes time to discuss transphobia in the classroom, the heteronormativity of the Junior Advisor (JA) co-pairs or the generally puritanical views of sex, sexuality and gender that fester in our campus. We (and I include myself here) eschew interrogation of the system in favor of maintaining the status quo. But it is clear that the status quo is not working.”
The community gather together after the incident to support each other and discuss a response. The Williams Record reported students are calling for institutional reform.
Students and administrators met at 8 p.m. on Sunday evening in Hardy House to support affected members of the community and to discuss a response. Over the course of the two-hour meeting, students discussed their frustration and anger over the incident with a number of senior College officials … In addition to expressions of fear and frustration over the incident, many students proposed institutional changes to prevent future discriminatory acts from occurring on campus . . .
Among the changes suggested by students is the creation of a required first year seminar on diversity and more diversity training during orientation. The article reported that administrators said they would explore institutional initiatives to address bias and discrimination on campus. The Bias Incident Reporting Task Force, created after a racial slur was spray-painted in one of its dorms last semester, will release their recommendations this summer or fall. Williams President Adam Falk said he wasn’t sure how much more the institution could or should do.
“’The truth is that a college isn’t a place where the administration can, in a kind of micro way, control the behavior of every student, and you don’t want us to,’ he said. ‘So we can be supportive and encouraging, and again, hold individuals accountable for behavior when we know that they’ve done that, and set the right tone and set the right priorities, but I don’t know how much of that is a change, and how much of that is really just a restatement of things we’re already doing.’”
Facebook, estimated to be worth around 75 billion dollars, filed to go public last week. Why should you care?
Ever noticed that the ads on the sidebar correspond to your interests? Facebook is using your personal information to make their profits. According to The New York Times, Facebook made $3.2 billion last year on advertising.
The social networking site has 845 million users, and the information on an online profile can be used against you in the job search, and when trying to get credit or insurance. According to author and law professor Lori Andrews:
The Internal Revenue Service searches Facebook and MySpace for evidence of tax evaders’ income and whereabouts, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has been known to scrutinize photos and posts to confirm family relationships or weed out sham marriages. Employers sometimes decide whether to hire people based on their online profiles, with one study indicating that 70 percent of recruiters and human resource professionals in the United States have rejected candidates based on data found online.
It’s not news that your internet image is vulnerable, but as Andrews writes, when Facebook goes public, what it’s selling is access to you.
On Monday, a short essay titled “The anger of a first-generation student” was posted on Classism.org. In it, current Wellesley College student Emily Loftis discusses the issues she faces as a “blue-collar kid” at the prestigious women’s liberal arts college. The piece, which has been circulating Tumblr thanks to a re-post on the alternative magazine Wellesley Underground, has resonated with first-generation students around the country.
Growing up, my parents always told me that I could be and do whatever I wanted. I always believed them, but what I was never told was how angry I’d feel every day of my life.
No one told me about the anger I’d feel when 90% of my class raises their hand when the professor asks who has visited country x, y, and z when I’ve never left the country. Or how frustrating it feels to have to check my bank account before every purchase while my classmates receive money week after week from parents’ seemingly bottomless bank accounts. The anger that springs up when I’m searching for a summer internship because they’re all unpaid and I don’t have enough experience for the paid ones because I spend my summers working. The anger from spending my holiday breaks cleaning houses while my classmates take trips around the world.
In December, The Gazettereported that 17 employees at Pomona College were fired after failing to produce work authorization documents. Many Pomona students, faculty, and alumni have been up in arms since that time, insisting that the college betrayed its ideals.
According to today’s New York Times, this is “hardly the first time that students had vocally criticized the administration’s treatment of the people who served their food each day.”
Earlier last year, Pomona’s administration renewed enforcement of a rule “barring dining hall employees from talking to students in the cafeteria during their breaks.”
“We’re told that we are a community, that everyone on campus matters, but that’s really not what we see now,” said Isabel Juarez, a junior at Pomona.
According to The New York Times, Vassar College made 76 “admissions mistakes” last Friday when 122 early admissions hopefuls logged online and saw they had all been admitted.
By 4:30 the College had discovered the “system error” and messaged students that they had not, in fact, gotten in.
According to The Times:
At 5:11 p.m. Friday, the first panicked message hit the College Confidential message board: “Now it says I’m declined??????”
“Accepted at 4, reject at 5,” read another. “I don’t understand.”
President Catherine Hill explained that the letter had been put in the system as a placeholder until the actual decisions were made, and offered her deepest apologies to prospective students and their families.
Pamela Gann, the President of Claremont McKenna College, announced to staff and students Monday that the standardized scores used by rankings publications such as U.S. News & World Reports have been falsified since 2005.
Look for Danielle Charette’s investigation into the politics of college rankings soon on the DG!