Say it ain’t so!

Has College Council rolled over on anchor housing? Jonathan Landsman ’05 says so in a comment on this thread (reprinted below). Further confirmation comes with the letter sent by CC Co-President Jessica Howard sent to all students this morning. Here is the letter, with my comments.

Dear Students,

Members of College Council recently met with President Schapiro, Dean Roseman, and Director of Campus Life Doug Bazuin to formally represent the student body’s opposition to the implementation of the Committee on Undergraduate Life’s “Williams House System” proposal. We write now to inform students of our actions and of the fact that the administration is committed to implementing some form of cluster housing in 2007.

It is nice of Howard/CC to keep students informed in this way. Note that just because the administration says that it is committed to something is not enough to be certain that, in the face of student opposition, it would follow through.

In light of the limited student support for the CUL’s proposal, College Council advocated against its full implementation. Instead we encouraged the administration to push forward with the proposal’s most popular components — dorm renovations, increased Co-op housing, strengthened peer and faculty advising, and a six person pick size — but to refrain from restricting room draw to within a cluster. We also recommended restructuring ACE and strengthening the HC system as an alternative to the CUL’s proposal.

All good stuff. But why the past tense? Why not continue to advocate, recommend and encourage? Why give up so quickly?

Although we continue to believe that implementing residential restrictions is not the proper step for the College to take, it is clear that the administration is committed to establishing cluster housing at Williams.

No it is not! You have been bluffed by the administration.

If you really believe that this is not the “proper step” then you have a moral obligation to try and fight against it for more than a month. This is all the more so, at least in the case of Bal/Howard, since they campaigned on a platform of forcing the administrattion to take student concerns seriously. In fact, it isn’t clear to me if the current College Council has done any fighting at all. For starters, where is the letter that it sent to the administration and where is the administrations response? It might be appropriate to throw in the towel next December once all options had been exhausted, but now is too soon. Moreover, by giving in so quickly, you dramatically decrease the bargaining power that you might have had in shaping the proposal.

Remind me again of how the recall process works for CC.

Consequently College Council believes that it can best serve the interests of the student body by working with students to make the new housing system as successful as possible. We see this approach as being more productive than continuing to fight for an option we do not have and thus compromising our opportunity to have at least some role in influencing impending changes in residential life.

I try not to use all caps on too many occasions in the space, but PATHETIC is the only word that comes to mind. Don’t you understand that the administration can not implement cluster housing without some student input? Don’t you understand that there is no way that the process, even if the administration insisted on going forward, could occur without students on the various committees? Assume for a second that th administration is hell-bent on implementation. Students, as a group, do not need to Quisling under to have a say in the process going forward. The administration would create some new committees and seek student members. It would be fine if some students joined those committees (and therefore help to shape the proposal) while College Council continued a vociferous defense of free agency.

By buckling so quickly, College Council does not enhance student input in the process; it enhances its own input.

The future of Williams residential life will involve some form of cluster housing, but everything beyond this conceptual foundation is in students’ hands.

Let us do some straw grasping! Are Bal/Howard much more clever than Landsman or I give them credit for? Just how broad in the “conceptual foundation” of cluster housing? Perhaps CC is merely agreeing to work with the administration so that it is better placed to preserve free agency.

Unlikely.

Over the course of the next year College Council will work to ensure that whatever is implemented beyond cluster restrictions reflects student opinion and enjoys student support.

Please let us know if you have any ideas, comments, or questions for us to address. Information on the CUL’s proposal is available at:

http://www.williams.edu/resources/committees/cul/housesystem.html.

Best wishes for the rest of the school year,

The Williams College Council

What is to be done now? I don’t know. It is still interesting to contemplate who the student members of CUL will be next year. If I were a student, I would apply to CUL and try to fight to save free agency from within. I hope that some of the members of Anchors Away do so. Any student who is really angry with the manner in which College Council so quickly caved in should consider the recall option — the details of which Jonathan Landsman would know — for College Council and/or specific representatives who campaigned against anchor housing. Given student opinion, I do not think that it would be hard to gather the hundreds of signatures required. But my guess is that the fight has gone out of the most of the pro-free agency students. How much energy can they possibly have, especially in May?

Jonathan Landsman wrote:

[W]hen I first read your post about a week ago, I read between the lines a little and guessed that half its aim was to try and make what you said true, rather than declare it to be so. In other words, hope that by championing Council’s resolve in this matter, you might strengthen it. If so, it was a good idea, with a chance of working if enough read these blogs. But that night I went to the CC meeting, to witness them essentially roll over.

This isn’t as blameworthy as even I would like to think — though decisions like last Wenesdays feed the cc-bashing pasttime of people like Finley. The people on CC are good-faith students with a real desire to cooperate and make the best of what they see to be inevitable. When Roseman and Morty say Anchors are in for sure, they believe it and think the best they can do for the students in their charge is get on board. This is in the best of intentions, and the sort of thinking that good people succumb to.

I, and you as well I believe, David, differ with them over the crucial thought that it is (was) far from time to yield the battle. I told them so at the last meeting (I am no longer a member), but publicly, none were sympathetic to my point of view (some members with a little less courage than I’d have liked came to me after the meeting to speak their private minds). But as far as CC is concerned, the battle is over. You’ll hear of another letter from them soon that should make it clear. I regret to bear this news.

A sad, sad day.

It would be one thing if the members of CC decided that anchor housing was best for Williams. I would disagree but respect their judgment. Yet it is depressing for them to stop fighting — after having fought so little — and accept something as inevitable when it is only their acquiescence that makes anchor housing even possible.

College Council has failed to realize the power that it wields. Perhaps Schapiro/Roseman predicted this all along; perhaps they knew that College Council could be counted on to buckle, to go along to get along, to give up without a fight in order to preserve their own power and perks; perhaps Schapiro/Roseman knew all too well the sort of students that make up College Council, the sort that could be easily bluffed, that have no stomache for a fight, that will ultimately suck up to the very power that they campaigned against.

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