Around the fringes of the debate over anchor housing, there are occasional mutterings about the “nuclear” option. Basic idea is that students opposed to anchor housing could threaten to hit back on something that the College administration really cares about: say, the US News rankings and/or the yield on accepted applicants. Sometimes this option is presented in an extremist sort of way. (Not that there is anything wrong with extremism in the defense of choice!). Sometimes it is presented in a more reasonable tone, along the lines of “When the accepted students visit in April, we will be honest with them concerning our opinions on anchor housing. Since we (honestly) hate it, this will cause fewer students to come to Williams who otherwise would have.”

Neither of these strategies is likely to be effective.

  1. The College does not like to be blackmailed.
  2. The College does want to set itself up for similar blackmail attempts going forward.
  3. The College does not believe that students would actually do this. They know how much the students love Williams. They would view this threat as a bluff and call it.
  4. The College does not believe that this threat, even if carried out, is likely to be effective. How many students, however committed, would really bother to hector visiting high school seniors? How many high school seniors would bother to listen? (The College suspects that visiting high school seniors have other priorities than learning about the finer points of college housing policy when they visit for the week-end.) How many accepted students who did listen would actually change their decision based on what they heard?

There is, however, a nuclear option that has brought the Williams administration to its knees on more than one occasion in the past. Doesn’t anyone study history anymore? Surely the readers of EphBlog have some good stories to tell about what went on a decade or three ago . . .

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