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More Housing History

One of EphBlog’s favorite windmills to tilt at is the history of housing at Williams and, in particular, how Mission went from being 40% sophomores in 1985-86 to 90% by 1989-90(?). See previous discussion here. The main progress we have made is to determine the classes of 1990 and 1991 seem to be key to the story. By the class of 1992 (sophomore year 1989-90), Mission was already mostly sophomore.

Derek Charles Catsam ’93 was kind enough to send in these memories.

I honestly am a bit blurry about the whole housing situation during my years. It changed at least once in a major way in terms of how affiliation worked, and then was in the process of changing my senior year, when i lived in a coop. I took a fairly representative Williams path through housing, going from the Quad to mission to Greylock to a co-op. I affiliated with one of the Graylock houses in the end-of-frosh-year lottery, but traded into Mission for sophomore year. Asd i say, it was a system very much in flux, and the rigorous affiliation system that once prevailed had given way to what i recall as being a bit of a mishmash. Some people who had no interest in Mission did end up going and affiliating with houses with more character and rose through the ranks to get better and better room sin the most desireable places. I just wanted to be near a lot of my friends. I doubt this will be of much use.

Can anyone from the classes of 1989, 1990 and 1991 help us out?

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#1 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On June 24, 2005 @ 7:35 am

As long as I’m here– offhand, the “sophomore ghetto” (as we called it in Guadino and elsewhere) at Mission was the result of the fact that relatively few of the campus at the time chose Mission afflilation. As a result, other housing groups had more affilates than spaces, and therefore “bumped” low-drawing sophomores into Mission.

This was no doubt a result of the perception that there was no advantage to Mission affiliation, as there was relatively little chance of gaining a better room in junior and senior years. But why this state of affairs came to be (versus previous years’ preferences) is not clear to me. A good deal of campus had come to the opinion that Mission was the place to be for sophomore year, then you moved on; a smaller social minority was absolutely opposed to that perspective.

Members of the administration also certainly bandied around the idea of making Mission officially sophomore housing. I would not say this was ever truly serious.

#2 Comment By David On June 24, 2005 @ 1:02 pm

I don’t understand how it could be that “relatively few of the campus at the time chose Mission afflilation.” I did not know a single freshman in 1984-85 who “chose Mission affliation.” Every person I knew preferred to affliate with some other housing cluster. But, because the housing office distributed the openings in proportion to available slots (I assume) 100+ students were assigned a Mission affliation, regardless of their preferences.

Had the rules changed by 1989 so that very few students were actually affiliated with Mission? (I realize that almost no one “chose” it, but I would have thought that the same number still ended up stuck with it.) I guess that that’s conceivable, but I don’t understand why Linda Brown and/or Tom McEvoy would do such a thing. Wouldn’t that have resulted in incredibly stressful room draws at places like Carter in which dozens of sophomores who had official Carter affiliations were denied housing because there were too many affiliates? I know that there was some “bumping,” but was it really widespread?