Not sure your analysis holds up.

I’ll grant you that the “depth” of relationships with a small group of friends would be better off under a system where you can pick into the same house with that entire group. The system I propose, like the current system, would allow students to live in a group with three other close friends. I fundamentally disagree with the idea, however, that close relationships cannot be made unless you live with people. I would be surprised if most people did not have many close friends whom they do not live with. Close friendships are also made on the athletic field, in the newspaper office, or at the Purple Pub so while I’ll grant that your system is more conducive to creating a really tight group of 10 friends, I don’t think mine hinders close friendship.

Incidentally, if we wanted to make depth of friendship our top priority in community decisions at Williams, we would bring back fraternities which allow a couple dozen people with similar interests to eat, sleep, drink, and party together. In terms of crafting community policy, however, I’d say depth of friendship is the least important: People are going to make close friendships regardless of what policies the college implements because intimate relationships are ultimately what life is about. Getting dissimilar people to interact, on the other hand, is not a natural thing — though it is something that is at the core of what Williams claims to be.

In terms of “breadth,” David largely falls back on citing a blind assertion in place of analysis. He claims in the late 1980s the average Williams student knew “50 to 150 members of her class” while now the typical senior knows “125 to 225 (perhaps more) members of her class.” This is such a silly, baseless assertion that I don’t even know where to begin. There’s just literally no way on earth to know whether people know more names and faces now then they did 15 years ago.

The analysis David does offer suggests that by having lots of flow between dorms, people start meeting more and more people. To some degree this is true. Clearly, under the current system I will encounter more faces as I walk through the halls of Mission sophomore year and Greylock junior year than I would being in one dorm. At the same time, because there is so little attachment to your dorm there is far less incentive to actually meet the people you live with. If I’m a sophomore living in Pratt under the current system, I could be quite content not knowing the vast majority of my house because I have my friends who I live with and I have my friends who live elsewhere and I’m only living in Pratt for one year.

On the other hand, if I’m a sophomore living in Pratt who knows that I’m going to be living with the same people for the next three years, I’m gonna be damn sure to get to know them sophomore year. And I’ll make sure I get to know the juniors as well who I’ll be living with for two years. And I’ll get to know the sophomores who come in next year because I’ll be living with them next year.

Further, and here’s where we get into the “variety” aspect, I’m far more likely to get to know not only all the people in my house, but as I start to get to know them better, I’ll get to know their friends better. On some relatively dead Friday night, if the WUFO players in my house decide to have their WUFO friends over for some beirut, I’m much more likely to go hang out with them if I actually know some people at the party.

A buddy of mine and I used to laugh about the awkward nod of the head you give to somebody who lives in your dorm, whose face you know, but you literally have nothing to say to. David seems to think there’s some great value in recognizing a bunch of faces. I’d rather really get to know a wide variety of people and then perhaps go talk to them and their friends for a few minutes when we’re all coincidentally at the Purple Pub together.

The bottom line is the house affiliation system provides not only the opportunity to meet an array of people, but more importantly a real incentive to get to know this array of people you live with. Under the current system, there’s no incentive not to ignore the rest of your house because you’re only living with them for one year.

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