Perhaps someone more expert on these issues can provide a thorough history, but, as best I know, there are have been three main eras in the last 50 years in Williams housing.

First, the fraternities, lasting until 1962 or so. Students not in fraternities were affiliated with certain houses (they had to live somewhere) mostly in the Berkshire Quad. My father was a DKE (pronouced deek) and lived in the DKE house, since burned down. Fraternities had, essentially, complete control over who became a member.

Second, the “affiliation” system, lasting until 1990 or so. I am not sure that “affiliation” is the correct word, but the system was simple enough. At the end of freshmen year, you — either alone or as a member of a smallish housing group — submitted your housing preference the main housing groups on campus (Greylock, Mission, et cetera). By lottery, you were assigned to one of these groups and then randomly to a house within that group. My first choice was Greylock (as was many peoples in that era) and I ended up in Carter House. After this initial lottery, you were stuck in that house for three years (leaving out time as a JA or time abroad). House transfers were difficult and rare.

Third, the lottery system, lasting through today. See here if you need an overview of the current system, as best I understand it.

My understanding is that Mike Needham is proposing that Williams go back to an “affiliation” system in which students would spend three years in a given house, but one where the students currently in that house would have no say in which first years were admitted. Moreover, steps would be taken to ensure that each house provided a reasonable microcosm of the larger Williams community.

My claim is not that Mike is wrong in his “views on residential life at Williams.” Mike has clearly thought carefully about these topics. My claim is that the Williams community is stronger and better under the current lottery system than it was (or would be again) under an affiliation system. (I am assuming — correct me if I am wrong, Dean Roseman! — that the fraternity option is no longer viable.)

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