Independent projects during Winter Study (WSP 99) provide an opportunity for interesting/original work while running the risk gut-orama-hood. Judging from this all-campus message, the frequency of abuses may have been increasing recently.

Last year’s WSP Committee revised the guidelines and forms to improve attention to intellectual merit and methods of inquiry

As best I can tell, the new guidelines are here. One simple improvement that would increase the seriousness with which students took these sorts of classes, as well as improve the quality of the work produced, would be to require that the final paper/project be made public. That is, it should be a requirement for any WSP 99 that the final result of the work be posted on the web.

For the most part, this will mean a paper. Perhaps these papers would be grouped together each year. Not only should the papers be on-line, but the name and department of the sponsor should be listed. Better yet would be to include the written comments, if not the grade, that the sponsor provided.

The great benefit of public scholarship is that it raises the seriousness of all concerned. No student wants to have shallow, slapdash work with his name on it displayed for all to see. No faculty member wants to have her name associated, especially repeatedly, with sub-par scholarship.

There are many problems at Williams that are tough and/or expensive to solve. A lack of intellectual merit in WSP 99’s is not one of them.

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