If the pre-CUL report phase of the dispute over anchor housing was the first quarter — half? game? round? period? what is the best sports analogy? — then this Record article marks the start of the second. It bears close reading.

Dean Roseman offered her first public evaluation on Monday to the cluster housing proposal submitted by the Committee on Undergraduate Life last month, expressing her general support for a cluster system and her intention to charge next year’s committee with resolving its details, many of which have been points of contention for students.

“[G]eneral support”? I expected a much firmer affirmation than that. I expected Roseman to say that cluster housing was coming to Williams in 2006. Once she hands back the “details” to CUL, there is a lot that can happen. The student composition of the CUL will now be very different from what it was before.

Roseman and President Schapiro plan to release a letter written in response to the committee report later this week. In the letter, Roseman said, they will ask the 2005-06 CUL to settle questions of dorm and cluster equitability, budgetary allocations, professor involvement, student governance and compatibility with the entry system and All Campus Entertainment. “We need to roll up our sleeves and deal with these issues,” she said.

That letter will make for interesting reading. One of our campus authors will, I hope, post it once it becomes available. [Side note: It is a shame that all such campus communications are not made public and archived somewhere.]

The administration has been particularly positive about the committee’s suggestion that the 40 singles in Tyler Annex be converted to 20 true senior singles, each having a bedroom space, living room space and bathroom. Such a change would require little initial investment, Roseman said, and would likely make the cluster anchored by Tyler House appear more desirable. The increased number of students living off campus and studying abroad has allowed the College greater flexibility with regard to the number of beds on campus.

Would 20 senior singles make Tyler as desirable as the other 4 clusters? I doubt it. Again, if the CUL is to do its job properly, it must gather decent data from this year’s room draw, and make that data public. Will that conversion be in place now, for 2005-2006?

Will Dudley ’89, associate professor of philosophy, will continue as CUL chair next year at the behest of senior staff. “My hope is that as more people think of this as a coming reality they start to focus on what they can do to make it as good as possible,” Dudley said. “We don’t plan to revisit the big picture issues.”

Well, “we” are unlikely to be blessed with student members as eager to follow your lead this time around. The way to make housing at Williams as good as possible is to stop cluster housing, and then increase the number of co-ops and decrease the number of doubles.

Those first few CUL meetings will be a lot of fun. How, precisely, is Dudley going to prevent student members who want to “revisit the big picture” from doing so? He is not the boss of them. But, he will be stuck with them and the very last thing that he wants is for them to issue some sort of minority report that bashes the entire project. Moreover, if the 6 of them stay together, then, with just one other member, they command a majority of CUL.

Of course, Roseman is no doubt picking faculty members who, she thinks, are very pro-cluster housing, but the independence that tenure gives a professor can cut in surprising directions.

In addition to the return of several other faculty and staff members to the committee, Roseman said she would like to expand the committee based on the model provided by the alcohol task force and perhaps increase the number of students serving from four to eight. “We want a wider constituency,” she said, describing next year’s student members as “ambassadors.”

The best joke on this comes from the WSO blogs. In response to a question about exactly what sorts of “ambassadors” these are, Dan Rooney ’08 responded:

I think that they are the Republic’s ambassadors to the Trade Federation, but they might be NESCAC’s ambassadors to the People of Zion.

Heh. More interesting here is Roseman’s belief that she can, by fiat, change the composition of the CUL. I don’t think that she can. The membership of the CUL is defined in the faculty handbook. [Side note: I am not sure if this year’s membership met these requirements. Which faculty member currently on CUL is a “representative from the Athletics Department”? But leave that to one side for now.]

If I were the CC C0-Presidents Bal and Howard — now clearly the leaders of the anti-cluster housing forces — I would want to understand the rules on appointments very thoroughly. The key is clearly in the 6 student members. Who picks them? Who they are will be a major factor in how the debate goes. Some detail is provided by Jonathan Landsman ’05 in this thread. It seems clear that it is up to CC, although there was discussion this past fall that one of the CUL student members is supposed to come from the class of 2009 and is picked by the First Year Council. Perhaps Andrew Goldston, having taken a semester off, would qualify?

Anyway, if you care about cluster housing, about the biggest change in Williams residential life in 30 years, you should apply for CUL.

Karen Untereker ’05, who has served on the committee for the three years she has been on campus, stressed the importance of ample funding for dorm improvements and staff support and a well-coordinated transitional plan to the success of the system. “I think a poor kickoff to the system could lead to a poor system as whole,” she said.

“There are all these traditions that have died that were for so long the glue of the community,” Roseman said, highlighting her conversations with alumni as particularly telling of the potential benefits of cluster housing.

Give me a break! Ever ytime I read this sort of administration pablum, I want to e-mail every Williams administrator my detailed description of life in the 80’s. [One CUL member was kind enough to read it and report that it was consistent with his own conversations with alumni.]

We have been over this topic time and time again. There is no good evidence that, post 1965, all sorts of “traditions” have “died” and not been replaced by equally good ones.

The Record should ask Roseman to specify precisely which traditions she is talking about and when/why they died. Come on Ainsley O’Connell ’06! Ask the hard questions.

Roseman said she was not swayed by the March 1 poll of student opinion on cluster housing, conducted by the Record, in which more than 60 percent of the student body surveyed indicated that they did not support the idea of cluster housing or were leaning toward not supporting it.

Of course not. Why should she be swayed? The students are idiots. They don’t know what is in their own best interest.

The poll also found that those students most satisfied with social life on campus were most resistant to the cluster system.

During the College Council elections, both teams of co-presidential candidates vowed to align Council’s agenda with student opinion on cluster housing and bring that agenda to the administration. Newly-elected CC co-presidents Alex Bal ’06 and Jessica Howard ’06 reaffirmed that vow last month, when CC released the results of the student survey it conducted as part of the spring election, and again yesterday in a written statement responding to news of the administration’s soon-to-be released letter.

Where is this written statement? We love this sort of stuff at EphBlog! Perhaps someone could post it in the comments.

I have communicated a bit with Bal and Howard. My initial impression is that they are serious, organized, competent people. They know what they are doing. If you are pro-anchor housing, then Bal/Howard are your worst nightmare.

“Dean Roseman may be moving forward to plan for cluster housing, but implementing the proposal is another issue entirely,” Bal and Howard said. “Even if implemented, it would be impossible for the proposal to achieve its goals without sufficient support from the student body. … [I]t would be foolish to think that student opinion can be ignored.”

Bal and Howard met with Roseman for the first time on Monday morning. Roseman said they did not discuss cluster housing or the CUL.

The co-presidents said they plan to include discussion of cluster housing as part of the agenda at Council’s meeting tomorrow.

Good stuff. Pick 5 new CUL members as soon as possible.

As outlined in the 2005 CUL report, the Williams House System, or cluster housing, will group upperclassman dorms in five loosely geographic clusters, each headlined by its own anchor house. Currier, Dodd, Tyler, Spencer and Wood will serve as anchor houses, chosen for their social spaces and senior rooms. Roughly 275 students will be a part of each cluster, not including affiliated first-years.

If you’re Will Dudley, you don’t like the word “loosely” in this sentence. It is good to see the Record declining to follow the Newspeak description of cluster housing as the “Williams House System.”

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