The Transcript and the Eagle provide good coverage of the cluster housing debate. Most interesting sections include:

“There isn’t any sense of continuity in the houses,” Dudley said. “There’s no sense of belonging to a community, you just happen to be living in the same building that year.”

According to Dudley and others, the roots of the idea [for cluster housing] lie in earlier living arrangements at Williams. For generations, fraternities dominated the housing system, and when the college chose to eliminate them in the 1960s, it established a residential housing system that was designed to maintain a sense of small communities within a larger community. Students lived in the same house for most of their time at Williams.

Dudley, who graduated from Williams in 1989, said the system worked well up to the 1980s. Until that time, most houses had their own dining facilities, which fostered a stronger sense of community. But in an effort to provide more dining options more efficiently, dining facilities were concentrated in a smaller number of dining halls around campus.

Eventually, the disparities in the types of housing on campus — from modern complexes like Mission to former fraternity houses on Main or South streets — led to more vocal calls for change from students.

“Increasing number of students in the less physically desirable houses felt they were stuck in the same building for three years,” he said.

Dudley said housing systems that are similar to the new one proposed by the CUL have been implemented at colleges like Bowdoin and Middlebury.

“This will probably be the biggest change in student residential life at Williams since the abolition of fraternities,” said Charles Dew, committee member.

“What we’re trying to do is combine the best of the old house system with at least some of the flexibility of the current system,” said Dudley. “The central goal is to create the conditions in which real residential communities that have some spirit to them can re-emerge.”

Dew said that means most people live in a different house each of their final three years, not developing the friendships they might have had they lived in the same house during that time. Instead of being part of a community, he said the residence halls serve as “buildings where disparate people live.”

As students move from building to building each year, Dudley said none have any sense of connection or affiliation to a house. “So instead of having a house that functions as a residential community, they’re really like dormitory buildings in which small groups have apartments.”

The 75-year-old tradition of freshman entries will not change, said Dudley. The committee began working on the plan about four years ago, and made recent adjustments in the proposal as students offered suggestions.

“There’s an awful lot of stuff that grew out of the houses that evaporated when the house system went away,” said Dudley. “I think the expectation is that a lot of that activity can be encouraged to come back. We’re not trying to recreate the past, but I think that we can learn from it.”

Dew believes the administration will act swiftly on the matter. He expects a decision — to be made by Roseman, President Morton Schapiro and college trustees — to be announced sometime in March.

“My sense is that they agree with us,” he said.

All interesting stuff, much very wrong, very suspect and/or very worrying. More commentary to come.

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