There is a great deal of uninformed commentary on anchor housing. I’ll do my best to critique it but, really, there are only so many hours in the day. In the Record, David Seligman ’05 writes

There is a reason that alumni and trustees support the CUL’s proposals.

What evidence is there that alumni “support” the CUL’s proposals? As far as I can see, almost none. Of course, very few alumni concern themselves with College policy, but the vast majority of opinions that I have seen expressed, both here and on the WSO blogs, have been negative. Moreover, the reason that the trustees “support” — meaning “are willing to go along with” — the proposal is because College officials have claimed that there is a problem and that anchor housing will fix it. Your job as a trustee is not to set policy. Your job is to hire good people and keep an eye on them. But, ultimately, you need to trust their judgments.

Not too long ago, Williams’ students lived in the same house their sophomore, junior and senior years. To many of us this possibility would seem abhorrent, but most alumni look back on their housing experience positively.

Well, maybe. I certainly lived in Carter House for three years. I look back on it fondly. But the vast majority of alumni look back on their housing experiences at Williams fondly. D’uh! Being 21 is fun. It seems even more fun in retrospect. Does Seligman have evidence that graduates from 2002 or 1997 look back on their housing experience less “positively” than we Ephs from the 1980’s? No.

They cared about the place that they lived, and not just because some of their friends lived with them, but because they saw their house as a social entity in itself.

Maybe. I guess that I “cared” about Carter House. I went to snacks. I voted in house elections. I served as a College Council rep. I knew the vast majority of my fellow students. I was (surprise!) a gossip. I am pleased that my genius roommates came up with goofy fighter pilot get-ups for us so that we might live on forever in the house picture from 1987.

But Seligman, like so many others, seems to have a gauze-eyed view of what life was like back then. Plenty of seniors did not know the names of half the sophomores in the house. Plenty of sophomores did not know the name of more than half the seniors. Plenty of residents had nothing to do with house affairs.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: There is no good evidence that Carter House in 1987 was more of a “community” than Carter House today. If the supporters of anchor housing believe otherwise, then they ought to — call me crazy — present some evidence for that claim.

In his meeting with College Council last week, Professor Dudley pointed out that many students at Williams don’t interact with or even know the students that they live with.

I guess that this is true now, but it was also true in the Gladden House that Dudley lived in almost 20 years ago! (I know because my then girl-friend now wife lived there too.) Perhaps lack of interaction is more of a problem now then it was then, but my intuition would be the other way. In any case, it is an empirical question. Why won’t the CUL try to answer it before implementing a new system?

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