It is impossible to understand the meaning and purpose of anchor housing without considering the history of CUL’s and the College’s actions on this topic. Alas, virtually no student remembers what CUL was doing and saying in 2000 about housing. Solving this problem, providing a repository for institutional memory for students is one of the purposes of EphBlog.

As to CUL, recall Josh Ain’s ’03 comments:

I have to agree with Sarah’s statement — if the administration set out to disrupt students carefully laid housing plans, they could not do a much better job than they have been doing. The story of housing in recent years is a story of the administration consistently working to enforce greater social engineering in campus housing and reduce student freedom and information. The administration has succeeded for the most part, by steadily pushing forward their change, and letting the institutional memory of the students graduate. Some history:

  • My freshman year housing draw, back in 2000, the cul announced several weeks before the draw began that rather than posting all results onto the online WSO plans system, the administration would have keep room assignments secret, so that students could not see where others picked to live as the draw progressed (a blind housing draw). The upperclass students, who had developed WSO plans and personally seen the benefits of it, protested strongly. The CUL reversed its decision.
  • My Sophomore year the CUL began running forums and feedback sessions around campus. These sessions were advertised as ‘Are you unhappy with housing here at Williams? Come tell us what is wrong with it.’ A very small percentage of the students, self selected as those already unhappy about housing, attended these forums. From the opinions gathered at these feedback sessions, the CUL put forth a set of statistics which said that the vast majority of students were unhappy about diversity in housing and favored greater social engineering. This report did not acknowledge that the data gathered was gathered from only the small subset of students who attended forums advertised as ‘are you unhappy about Williams.’
  • After gathering their data, the CUL announced that housing groups would be limited to four students. Students protested, the housing group size was raised back to its previous size.
  • My junior year, the CUL put together a more detailed report based on the information gathered the previous year. This report made a large number of suggestions, including gender balancing houses, limiting group size to four students, and enforcing a blind housing draw. This report was released several weeks before housing group registration was due. Students protested but the Deans office insisted that the suggestions were based in student opinion gathered the year before, and that the administration would implement the CUL suggestions.
  • Not content with the administration’s decision to mandate a blind housing draw, students in WSO planned to post information to set up an independent table outside of the housing draw where students could voluntarily submit their information to WSO plans. Dean Roseman contacted WSO and announced that any underclassmen who posted a plans-like system online would lose his or her housing pick, and be moved to the end of the housing draw (last pick in the school). Any seniors who posted a plans-like system online would have disciplinary action taken against them. WSO negotiated with the dean’s office to be allowed to post simply occupied/unoccupied information online
  • WSO gathered signatures protesting the CUL recommendations for housing. I believe the petition gathered 600 signatures — three times the number of signatures required to overturn a college council decision or prompt a vote of no confidence in college council.
  • My senior year: despite the petition of the previous year and the numbers which showed no appreciable increase in diversity of house population with the new housing reforms, the dean’s office stood firm to by its decision to enforce the CUL’s recommendation.
  • I was organizing WSO plans my senior year and in contact with Linda Brown in the housing office. Several days before housing draw, as an addendum to an email, she adds “You received the new doubles, right?” When we followed up on Mrs. Brown’s email, we found from the housing office that more than twenty desirable singles had been converted to doubles without any notice going out to students. We distributed this information to students and sent an all campus email to alert campus to this change, and asked people to contact Dean Roseman with any questions. The next day Dean Roseman sent an all campus email announcing the converted doubles.

It sounds from Sarah’s post that the administration’s policy has not changed this year from previous years. This history illustrates a real disconnect which has developed between the student’s goals in housing and the administrations master plan. While the Dean’s office does have the role of setting the strategic mission for the college community, its behavior in this recent interaction has come off as underhanded. The campaign to reform housing and increase campus diversity in housing has been characterized by voluntary or involuntary manipulation of data gathered to indicate student support which did not exist for given proposals. Further, the timing of the administration’s announcements of the new doubles last year and the changes to prospect this year suggest that the housing administration is intentionally attempting to throw the students off balance before the already stressful housing draw rather than allowing the students to make well thought out decisions about future housing.

I hope by posting this information I can help to keep the student institutional history alive with current Williams students.

I would be less likely than Josh to attribute some of this — especially items like singles to doubles — to administration malfeance. Bureacracies, even bureaucracies that we love, are rarely efficient.

I also don’t know if the history that Josh relates is accurate (further comments are sought). But everything that he writes is certainly consistent with what Jonathan Landsman ’04 wrote a few weeks ago.

What does this history teach us about current CUL intentions? I am not sure. Note that the important players in the debate have changed, especially the members and leadership of the CUL. But both Dean Roseman and President Schapiro have been in office since 2000, although not early enough, I think, to have had anything to do with Josh’s first bullet point.

History matters. Both the supporters and opponents of anchor housing should better understand that which has come before.

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