The very first question asked at tomorrow’s CUL forum on anchor housing should be:

Is there anything that any student or group of students could say at this point in the process that would cause you to delay implementation of cluster housing until the fall of 2006?

It would be very helpful to get answers from every member of the committee. (I can’t even find a listing of the members. Who are they?) Presumably, there is a wide range of opinion among committee members about how much more study the proposal requires.

This question serves several purposes. Most importantly it frames the discussion as “Has the CUL conducted a thorough enough process in making this change?” rather than “Is cluster housing better than a lottery?” The first argument is a much easier one to win.

The anti-cluster forces (call them AAs for “anchors-away”) also need to get a sense of where specific members of the commitee are coming from. There are a lot of reasons why some members of the CUL might not be comfortable with the proposal. AAs need to provide those members with the information and evidence they need for the internal CUL debates left to come. Moreover, the AAs desperately need to lay the groundwork for a sort of minority report. Even if a majority of the CUL decides to vote in favor of cluster housing, AAs will be much more likely to succeed if they can get even 1 or 2 CUL members to publically dissent.

As always, the focus should not be on stopping anchor housing completely. The focus should be on stopping anchor housing this year, demanding more data, more time, more study.

Such a question also helps to bring to the fore the fact that this is almost a done deal. Without serious student opposition, the CUL will propose something and whatever they propose will be enacted immediately. CUL member Noah Smith-Drelich ’07 writes:

Nobody’s made any concrete proposal yet! Nothing’s been written, nothing’s been voted upon, nothing’s been made! The CUL has a pretty good idea of what sort of a proposal WILL be made, but even that could change if persuasive arguments were presented against it. PLEASE understand that–this isn’t an instance of CUL trying to slip anything by the students…I don’t see what’s so hard to understand.

Noah is clearly a good guy as well as a friend of EphBlog. He has handled himself most excellently throughout the WSO debate on the topic. But, I am afraid, he is quite naive in this score.

Smart college administrators like President Schapiro and Dean Roseman do not waste the time of the trustees with issues like anchor housing unless, for all practical purposes, the decision has already been made. As the Record notes:

Though details of the system remain up in the air, senior staff and trustees said yesterday that they intend to move forward this spring with arranging a more precise structure for the system, which may be in place as soon as fall 2005.

Again, if you know how colleges operate, you don’t need to rely on the Record for this. Trustees are not briefed on things that may or may not happen. In other words, the key decision — no more campus wide lottery — has already been made and approved. The rest is merely a mopping up operation.

Noah is, of course, correct that there are a lot of details (!) left to be worked out. But, in the absence of very organized opposition, whatever plan is delivered to Schapiro will be implemented. He isn’t waiting to know whether or not Carter and Bryant will be in the same cluster.

A final reason for asking the question — along with polite follow ups — is that it serves to set down a marker. If folks like Will Dudley say something that “1,500 student signatures requesting a delay would lead us to study this issue more thoroughly,” then the AAs have a target to shoot for.

Will Dudley, of course, is way too smart to ever say something like that, but you can always try!


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