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Pitiful

I would very much like to sing the praises of Jason Davis’s ’05 Record op-ed. After all, he also favors delay in the implementation of the proposal. But, there are just too many paragraphs like these two:

Since the free agency system began in 1993, the quality of residential life and the number of social options have declined to such an extent that a mere 12 percent of graduating seniors rate the residential setup of Williams as “very good.” That is pitiful for a college that believes so highly in its residential mission, and indicates that a change is needed.

Step back from your current position and take a look at the bigger picture. With some perspective, I would find it difficult not to endorse the anchor house system, at least in concept.

Bigger picture?!? Get a clue! How can Davis feign a stance of superior knowledge when he has clearly not thought very hard about the issue?

  1. Where does he get 12% from? Every other description of this number that I have seen is for 13%. Of course, this is a small difference, but you shouldn’t be telling other people to “step back” unless you at first take the time to get the facts straight.
  2. The 13% figure is deeply problematic, for a variety of reasons. But the more annoying issue is that Davis doesn’t even know what it refers to. There is no “very good” option on the survey, at least according to Provost Cappy Hill. The choices were: “very satisfied”, “generally satisfied”, “generally dissatisfied”, “very dissatisfied”, and “not relevant”. Again, this is a small point, but Davis shouldn’t be claiming to have some “perspective” which the rest of his readers lack unless and until he understands the actual facts.
  3. Even if Davis could quote the number correctly and understand what it refers to, I still don’t think that it supports his argument. After all, the number was 25% 5 years ago. So, to the extent that Davis wants to almost double the number of students who are “very satisfied” with the social life at Williams, he need merely recommend that the College undo the set of changes that CUL has made over the last 5 years.

I feel a bit guilty about attacking Davis. Perhaps it is just a fit of pique caused by the Record declining to run my own op-ed. But the proponents of cluster housing never seem to understand the limits of the possible. It will never, ever be the case that more than X% of Williams students answer “very satisfied” to such a question. Maybe X is 15; maybe it is 25; maybe it is 40. There is no way that it is 75.

So, the first step in a sensible debate about social life at Williams is to get a sense of what X is at other schools and in previous eras at Williams. Only with that information is sensible discussion possible.

CUL has those numbers, but refuses to release them. Draw your own conclusions.

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#1 Comment By John On February 16, 2005 @ 9:42 pm

Funny, it’s about 5 years ago that I remember some of the first housing policies being enacted so as to curb student choice in where they live by bringing the maximum size of the number of people who could pick in together down from 8.

The only way to make that number go up is to increase the choice students have in housing options and with whom to live with.