Still care about anchor housing? You are not alone! Updates, rants and wild speculation below the fold.

At this point, the odds of anchor housing being implemented — meaning no campus wide room draw in the spring of 2007 — are less than 50/50, perhaps as low as 1 and 3. This is a radical change from just 4 months ago and may not even be accurately perceived by the students involved. [Or you could just be drinking the Anchors Away Kool-Aid. — ed. Not for the first time!] The short version is that the trustees are now engaged with the issue, the student leadership — essentially CC — is now united and any fair reading of the facts suggests that the CUL Report is fundamentally flawed.

Consider the latest update from the Record.

College Council drafted a statement to the administration last week outlining CC’s opposition to the proposed cluster housing system.

“As the voice of the student body, CC opposes the Williams House proposal in its current form,” the statement reads. “In CC debates, we have concluded that modifications to the current residential and social organization of the College should be made in lieu of a drastic restructuring of residential life.”

In many ways, this statement reflects a GAME OVER moment, at least for the next couple of years. It was one thing for the Administration to force anchor housing on the students when the College Council seemed unable to take a stand on the issue and there were no good measures of student opinion. But, if there are good measures of student opinion (Record/CC polling) and if the College Council is united in opposition, then it will be hard, and quite risky, for the Administration to force the issue.

So, if College Council can produce a statement with (virtually) unanimous support, I do not think that the Administration will say, “Bullocks to you! Anchor housing will be implemented and you can’t stop it.” At worst (from the point of view of a fan of the current system), the Administration will throw the tar-baby back into CUL’s hands and ask it to look further into student concerns. At that point, with a bunch of student members who accurately represent student opinion on the topic, free agency will probably be saved.

You have the power CC, use it wisely.

Although the College Council web site seems to be back in action, I can’t find a version of this draft (final?) statement or even a copy of any of the recent meeting minutes. Pointers are appreciated, as always.

Debate in last Wednesday’s meeting was fairly one-sided as to whether to submit the statement, focusing more on whether Council should send the letter to trustees and on which statistics about student opinion they should include. CC eventually decided not to send the letter to the trustees.

Why not send the letter to the trustees? The trustees are good and smart and loyal Ephs. They care what the students think. Moreover, because Morty is such a good guy, it is easy for CC to do contact them. They can just send their letter to Morty and (politely!) ask him to forward it on to the trustees. (Morty has done this in the past and would, I am sure, do it in the future.) Now, as discussed at length in the past, concerned students should not bother the trustees every time something comes up. But there is no more important issue on CC’s agenda than anchor housing. If this isn’t worth contacting the trustees over, then nothing is.

The CC administration met with President Schapiro, Dean Roseman and Doug Bazuin, director of campus life, last Friday to present and discuss the statement. “It was an honest and collegial conversation between people who care deeply about Williams,” Roseman said of the meeting. “We asked that they work with us to make our residential system as good as it can be. Student input is going to be very important next year as we work out the details of implementation, and it is extremely important for CC to help in that process.”

What a great piece of Kabuki theatre this is! CC says to the Administration:

Don’t end free agency. We love free agency. The students love free agency. None of us think that cluster housing will accomplish the goals that you have set for it.

The Administration responds:

Thanks for your feedback! Now, do you think that the intra-cluster public speaking competition should be on Wednesdays or Thursdays?

In other words, by claiming (pretending? bluffing? ) that the decision has already been made to implement cluster housing, Roseman would like to guide CC and the students toward working with the College on the “details of implementation.” But CC has no interest in this, at least unless one of those “details” involves the retention of campus-wide room draw.

Has the Administration already made a decision? That is the big question, right now. Recall that Roseman promised a letter on the topic two weeks ago. What is she waiting for? There are two possibilities. One, the press of other issues has put that letter on the back burner for now. Two, Roseman/Schapiro have serious questions/reservations about what that letter should say.

Their initial plan was to just write a letter saying, in essence, we accept the CUL’s recommendations and have appointed a committee of students and faculty to work out the details. My guess, however, is that the depth of student opposition, and the knowledge of trustee concern, has caused Roseman/Schapiro to change this plan. For now, there seems to be a limitted, modified hang-out going on whereby the Administration acts as if cluster housing is a foregone conclusion — they certainly want students to believe that it is inevitable — while never committing to that position on paper. The Administration would like to bluff CC into accepting cluster housing as a fait accompli while skipping over the divisive accompli part.

I don’t know which explanation, if either, is correct. But the Record really ought to ask Roseman where the letter is. Hayley Wynn ’06 is too good a reporter to miss an opening like this. The article continues with:

CC co-president Jessica Howard ’06 declined to comment on the content of the meeting. “We will be updating Council on the meeting and discussing our next course of action on Wednesday,” she said.

Is Howard a cool customer or what? Instead of ranting and raving about the Administration, she plays it cool. She stays calm. She knows that the best course of action to achieve her goal of ensuring that student opinion — rightly and overwhelmingly in favor of retaining free agency — is taken seriously is to unify College Council first. There is no reason to mouth off to the Record until she has solidified her base. She wants this to be CC/students versus the Administration not Jessica Howard versus the Administration. Moreover, she recognizes that the more professional she is in her dealings with the Schapiro/Roseman/Bazuin the more likely they are to take her seriously.

As noted before, Howard and her co-President Alex Bal are remarkably talented. They are playing the politics of this dispute pitch perfectly.

At this point, the ball is clearly in the Administration’s court. CUL has submitted its report and Schapiro/Roseman need to decide what to do about it and then, in writing, communicate their decision back to the community. I hope/recommend that they praise the CUL for all its hard work but ask it to look more thoroughly at the matter and address the many student questions/concerns that have since arisen since the publication of its report. The Administration does not need to kill anchor housing, they just need to not implement it right now.

But if they go the “Bullocks!” route, they will have a fight on their hands. Howard/Bal and the rest of College Council have come ready to play.

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