It seems highly unlikely that anyone wants to hear more advice from me on how to prevent cluster housing from coming to Williams. See previous editions here, here and here. But, I can’t help it. Read below for more ramblings.

  1. Realize that the context of the debate is radically different from what it was just a few weeks ago. The Trustees are now involved. They have each been mailed a copy of this document, which raises a set of questions about the major failings of the CUL’s Report. Being committed to the welfare of Williams (and not having received a similar document in years), almost all of them looked at it and many of them read it. They are now involved in a way that they weren’t before.
  2. The Administration is nervous. (Actually, I have no first-hand evidence of this, except for the failure to produce the promised letter on cluster housing; this may not be significant.) Presidents and Deans have been forced out of office at Williams in the past. Now, no one is claiming that we are anywhere near that stage over the issue of cluster housing, but the set of risks faced by the Administration is very different for an issue on which the Trustees are engaged, and on which the students are united in opposition. If the Trustees were not enaged and the students not opposed, then trying out cluster housing for a few years is low cost for the Administration. If it fails, then that’s too bad, but no one gets in trouble since no one did predict (or could have predicted) the failure.

    But if the students are opposed (and loud and organized), then ramming cluster housing down their throats becomes a much iffier proposition. If it fails, then there may be repercussions.

  3. Focus on the process. I think (perhaps not objectively!) that the approach taken in the Questions document is the right one. You want to argue that the College’s examination of the issue is not complete. You want to send the idea back to committee for further review. You want to order the district court to reconsider the issue. INSERT GOOD ANALOGY HERE. Your fight is not to stop cluster housing right now and forever. Your goal is to force the CUL/Administration to do its job correctly in the first place.
  4. Unite. The natural organization to lead the fight against cluster housing is no longer Anchors Away. It is College Council. There are only a few times every decade or so when what happens in College Council truly matters to the long term future of Williams. This is one of those times. If the College Council unifies around the goal of forcing the Administration to take student opinion seriously — something that the CUL, with all its high-handed talk of not being interested in a popularity contest, failed to do — then cluster housing is more likely to be stopped than not. Even those CC members who are in favor of cluster housing — a reasonable position, to be sure — should be willing to sign up for a resolution that asks the CUL to spend another 6 months on the topic, to address the concerns raised by the Questions document, as well as other questions that CC might have. If a (virtually) unanimous CC could demand further investigation, the Administration would have a hard time justifing to the Trustees why it insisted in rushing the process. What is the rush?
  5. Invite Dudley/Roseman/Schapiro to a College Council meeting to discuss the topic. They have always been good about responding to such invitations in the past. Talk with them. Ask them why the CUL Report left so much out. Ask them what would be the harm in doing a thorough investigation of the issues of concern. Point out the many flaws in the CUL Report and see what they say. Force them to go on record with their opinions. You want to force them to say either: “I realize that the CUL Report does not mention the special character of the Berkshire Quad, but we are going full speed ahead anyway even though we know that cluster housing will destroy this decades-old institution.” or “I realize that the CUL Report does not mention the special character of the Berkshire Quad, so we have asked CUL to investigate this matter further and provide a supplement to its report.” The Administration probably believes the first, but will want to give the second answer to you at a CC meeting.
  6. Pack the CUL. Appoint 6 student members who actually represent student opinion on this topic. Appoint those individuals now, even if their official term does not start to the fall. More discussion here. Encourage these new members to start attending meetings now. (This would require Will Dudley’s permission, but I suspect that he would agree.)
  7. Reach out to the Trustees directly. The CC Co-Presidents should certainly (politely) demand a chance to meet with the Trustees. But there is no reason why individual members of CC shouldn’t reach out to individual members of the Board of Trustees. I think that you would fine communicating with individual Trustees a rewarding and education experience. Include them in the conversation.
  8. Throughout all of this, the central goal is not to force the Administration to give up on cluster housing, to slink away in ignominious defeat. This will not happen, at least this spring. The central goal is to force the Administration to ask CUL to revisit specific objections to the proposal, to provide more detail in its Report, to take student concerns seriously. Once you can send cluster housing back to CUL for more work, you can kill it quietly.

Good luck. Cluster housing is not “inevitable.” In fact, if CC is united and clever in opposition, I think that free agency will be retained. Only a handful of students have a chance to influence Williams for years to come. You are among those lucky few.

Print  •  Email