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Anchor Me

For anyone concerned about the future of Williams, there is a must read thread started by Joseph Shoer ’06 on the anchor housing proposal.
It is damning.

Up until now, I had had trouble understanding what the anchor housing proposal was all about. Even this week’s Record article was not overly clear (to me). It seemed mostly to be about better parties, and who can complain about that? Moreover, given that a former student, Professor Will Dudley ’89, is heading CUL, I found it hard to believe that the proposal would be counter to students’ opinions/interests.

Turns out that there is something to worry about. The actual proposal, which seems to only now been revealed in its full extent, is quite radical. It would essential end the campus wide lottery that has, I believe, done more than anything else in the last 20 years to improve student interaction on campus. Housing, especially the pro’s and con’s of the current system, is a topic that we have covered at length on previous occasions.

At this point, the key issue is: How can those students, like Shoer ’06, interested in either stopping or delaying this proposal best accomplish their goals? I would start by organizing an all-campus debate. (Surely the Williams College Debate Union would be willing to sponsor the such an event.) The proponents, like Dudley, would hardly have a reason for not debating and the forum itself might serve to both highlight the flaws in the proposal and provide a focal point for the opposition to coalesce around.

Although students should, of course, take the major part in such a debate, it would be good if the pro-lottery (anti-anchor) forces could find someone with first-hand experience of what life was like before the lottery to argue on their side . . . someone, who, say, spent two years living in the house next to Dudley’s . . .


Here is the beginning of the thread.

The campus will be divided into six clusters, centered around an anchor house with a large social space. The clusters are roughly geographic, but the Mission and Greylock houses have been split up (see this week’s Record for the current plan). Each cluster has entries associated with it. After freshman year in an entr, students enter a cluster-wide room draw for each successive year. You may ONLY pick into a house in your cluster, as determined by your placement in a freshman entry. Pick size within the cluster room lotteries will go up to about six. ONCE AND ONLY ONCE during your Williams career, you may form a group of students regardless of cluster affiliation and opt to be randomly reassigned to a cluster together. They are looking to implement the system THIS SPRING, in such a way that we have a campuswide room draw as usual but after that room draw, you’re limited to your cluster in the future.

Dudley believes that Williams housing system is “good,” but could be “excellent.” The argument is that this will bring back a sense of “cluster identity” just like house identity when Williams had a house-affiliation system. The CUL has pitched this to the Trustees and administration as bringing back everything good about that system without all the bad. The CUL, Trustees, and administration honestly believe that that is true. However, both the successes and failures (remember, students were unhappy when houses were abandoned, in a way that they are not unhappy now) of the house system lied with the fact that students CHOSE their houses. I think their real targets are ACE and house identity, not the room draw. It is worth noting that several CUL members, as well as all the Trustees, are alumni from the house-affiliation era.

I spoke with Will Dudley, associate professor of philosophy and CUL chairman, at length last night. When I raised specific objections to the anchor house system in the form of predictions of how Williams social life will adapt to a housing system where students do not choose their houses, his response was often, “well, I don’t think that will be a problem.” When I asked if students would be surveyed about this proposal, he TOLD ME UP FRONT that the administration “won’t base the decision on any student opinion poll.”

So the Trustees and Morty are sold on this, and massive student sentiment against it is not enough to change their minds.

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#1 Comment By Diana On January 22, 2005 @ 5:20 pm

That last line — “So the Trustees and Morty are sold on this, and massive student sentiment against it is not enough to change their minds.” — is the one that hurts the most.

One thing I have learned about academic institutions is that they do listen to alumni. Alumni give money, and the college cares about donations. So if alumni — i.e. you, the readers of this blog — tell the administration that this is a bad idea, they will listen to you in a way that they won’t listen to us. So please write to William.C.Dudley@williams.edu (Joseph claims that he welcomes messages), and maybe you can save us from anchor housing!