This entry discusses the one-page student experiences report, which is descriptive, and the 10-section student support services report, which is prescriptive. Since the two reports are very different, I shall discuss them separately.

I don’t have time to go into detail on all of them, but the diversity report includes 50 very interesting tables and graphs; see here for a list.

Student Experiences

African-American students:

  • have a lower graduation rate, are more likely to major in Div II and less likely to major in Div III, are more likely to double major, do fewer tutorials and theses, are TAs less often;
  • win more Williams-sponsored scholarships and fellowships and internships, participate less in class discussions, ask academic deans and residential staff for advice on courses and academic goals more frequently, are more likely to be JAs and HCs, are more likely to serve on college committees and be on College Council, and make more use of the OCC;
  • are less likely to be varsity athletes, participate more in art and theatre, drink less, vote less, are less conservative, and are less likely to rate their experience at Williams as “excellent.”

Latino/a students:

  • have lower graduation rates, major more in Div I and less in Div III, double major more, are more likely to study away, are less likely to be TAs, are more likely to win Williams-sponsored scholarships and fellowships;
  • are less likely to be varsity athletes, are more likely to be on College Council, participate more in art and theatre, and are more likely to rate their Williams experience as “excellent” and say that they would “definitely” attend Williams again

Asian-American students:

  • have higher graduation rates, major more in Div I and less in Div II, win more Williams scholarships and fellowhsips, participate less in class discussions;
  • are less likely to be varsity athletes, drink less, are more often JAs, serve on more college committees, are less likely to consult their parents about academic goals, use the OCC more, are less likely to question their political beliefs, are less likely to say their Williams experience is “excellent,” and are much less likely to say they would “definitely” choose Williams again.

Thus, we see that students’ experience at Williams differs greatly when examined along racial divisions. Certainly, each student’s experience at Williams is distinct and different, but perhaps it is troubling that differences are based on something so superficial — or not, as many argue — as the color of one’s skin.

The committee has suggestions for what to do in the future:

1. Create a subset of these data to use as measures of progress toward improving the experiences of historically underrepresented groups at Williams.

Given the recent discussion on student recruitment, improving the experiences for the students from underrepresented groups once they get to Williams seems like a great idea, since they are so hard to get to Williams in the first place.

Policy making bodies should review those data regularly and report them publicly as appropriate.

Sounds like something David Kane would support wholeheartedly.

2. Create a more sophisticated system for the early detection of students who may become academically at risk and for more actively providing them with support.

A good idea in theory, but how much interference do students really need? More on that in the next section.

3. Continue to look for opportunities to reduce financial pressures on students from low-income families.

Always a good idea. This report emphasizes the financial burden of college on “students of color” in general and African-Americans and Latino/as specifically, but this also applies to international students and all “socio-ec” students.

Student Support Services

This report has 10 separate sections.

Special Academic Programs: The “discussion” section begins:

The data on student experiences and performance suggest that we need to be asking ourselves continually if we are doing enough, and doing well enough, for all of our students.

Sure, support services are good, but isn’t college a lot about learning to do things on your own? If the college is always trying to add more services, this process will never end, until not a single student struggles, and then where is the learning? Uncomfortable learning, sure, and not every student has a high enough GPA to go to Oxford — a problem cited in the report — but that is the way it has to be. The report also recommends hiring more TAs of color, saying

One, some students of color will be more comfortable seeking help from other students of color. … In this case, affirmative action might mean looking beyond those students most assertive about pursuing such jobs and those students with the strongest grades to make sure that all of the qualities that make a good tutor or TA are considered.

In my experience, many of the students that come to the Resource Center are non-white. Would more students really come there and to TA sessions if the quality of TA teaching were decreased in favor of “affirmative action” for URMs? A difficult question.

International Students:
The report notes that

The new First Days orientation schedule has made it necessary to condense a four-day international student orientation program into a morning. Consequently, the schedule consists of a series of administrative tasks required either for SEVIS compliance or for the business of the College.

Ouch! “Welcome to America, welcome to Williams, please fill out this form, thank you and enjoy your semester.” This is not exactly the warm fuzzy Williams touch we expect. However, the recommendation (by Dean Amy) is

International students at Williams need additional support.

It’s easy to say that in every area; perhaps it is especially needed here, and perhaps not.

An effective and substantive orientation program should be developed and implemented;

True? Maybe for some, but maybe some international students don’t need it, and it would make them feel separated from the Americans.

the College needs to commit to providing transitional housing and housing during major breaks;

Good idea! I don’t think many people would argue with this. Doug Bazuin makes a good point about this in his section of the report:

We have worked with the Dean’s Office to provide transitional/holiday housing for international students. At times, we have had to lobby various campus constituencies (such as Facilities) to provide housing for these students. Our efforts to provide this housing was not proactive, but occurred as a result of student pressure. As the profile of our international students changes, we have found that these students require more and more resources, and we often do a poor job of being proactive about those needs.

Okay, back to Dean Amy:

…workshops regarding such issues as cultural adjustment, work visas, fellowship opportunities, the honor code, English language usage, and study skills could be created.

Required workshops? Because if not, I can’t really see very many international students, who are already bright to begin with, voluntarily attending a meeting on, say, the honor code.

In addition, it would be helpful for the College community, particularly those staff members with direct contact with students, to have training regarding cross-cultural communication and sensitivity.

Again, easy to say that we need more training. But do we, really? I thought the point was to learn those things from living and working with people who are different, not having workshops about it.

Students with Disabilities:
The report describes students with disabilities at Williams as

approximately 70 self-identified students… the largest percentage of them have learning disabilities or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder… Students with depression, bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder have self-identified and requested accommodations.

Although Dean Amy claims that “students who have submitted documentation are invited to come in to talk on an individual basis with the person responsible for coordinating accommodations,” I have heard from a student who did this that the person was very unhelpful, and the talks did not lead to any accommodations. Once again, Dean Amy’s suggestion is that

Students with disabilities at Williams need additional support.

She recommends a “learning specialist” to meet with students and design “educational programs” to help them understand their disability and study better. Again, she also recommends workshops. I am not sure what the benefit of workshops would be.

Campus Life and Student Activities
Doug Bazuin discusses the Campus Life office, of which he is the head. He essentially summarizes the jobs and recent histories of various event-organizing groups, but there is no clear focus. The conclusion is equally unconvincing and unconvinced:

While one has the sense that the Campus Life Office should be doing more for our students regarding diversity, it’s not clear what that is. MCC provides a lot, however, and there is always the question of overlap. Maybe there could be more interaction between our offices, to see our roles as less compartmentalized. We could also work with other offices and outside agencies on expanding the training of HCs and CLCs in cultural competency.

Again, the same “we should do more, and maybe have workshops” theme.

Student Residential and Social Life:
In this report, Will Dudley essentially summarizes the CUL’s plan for anchor housing. He writes,

The proposed residential system aims not only to increase the extent to which all of the houses at Williams reflect the diversity of the student body, but also to enhance the opportunities and incentives for the members of the houses to interact with each other in meaningful ways.

A bit paternalistic, but with good intentions, I suppose. However, Dudley claims,

The CUL will spend the coming year preparing for the implementation of the new house system. The most important aspect of these preparations with respect to issues of diversity will be the design of the house governance structure.

Many would argue for many other aspects as being “the most important” before the house governance structure — number of clusters, for instance.

Multicultural Center:
This is a useful summary:

The Multicultural Center was established in 1989 to support the educational mission of the College by developing and supporting programs, events, workshops, and training, with a focus on the diversity of the community, including differences in gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and religion.

The report discusses WOW, SPARC, MLK day, and other events in great depth. In addition to recommending workshops (surprise!) for JAs, it suggests that:

  • WOW be once again a mid-orientation program, like WOOLF
  • more support from JAs, students, and administration for SPARC (bad idea! no one likes SPARC! speak out if you disagree)
  • more money for lectures and reading groups
  • “a response team for minority students under MinCo as a forum for discussing incidents or concerns in the minority community” — perhaps a good idea, given last year’s events reported on WSO blogs

So, nothing major, just more workshops, more support, and more money.

Safety and Security:
Jean Thorndike writes:

In writing this report, I have realized that no significant training has taken place since Department of Justice training in 2001.

Is this a problem? Perhaps, given that the college demographics have been changing, and that new officers did not receive even that training. However, she remarks later,

Yearly: All officers/supervisors who attend the six-day Northeast Security Officers Training Academy at Bates College attend a three-hour training program on “Diversity and Hate Crimes.” … Officers who have already attended the academy are rotated through the program again to insure mandatory training.

Thus, there may not actually be a gap. Thorndike makes another interesting point:

Doug Kern from SUNY did an excellent program about how campus officers react initially and what types of messages these actions send to members of historically underrepresented groups. … For example, it might imply they are taking sides because they allow a person with privilege or power to “tell their story first.”

This is certainly something that officers might not realize if they did not have a workshop to remind them. Good point. Thorndike further suggests that Security “establish CSS [campus safety and security] staff liaisons with student diversity groups.” This is an interesting idea, since entries already have security officers assigned to them, and would be worth pursuing.

Health Center and Psychological Counseling Center:
The report suggests that

One of the goals of the Health Center is to increase our outreach. Ideally we would like to have a member of the staff contact each of the underrepresented student groups early in the academic year to establish a relationship. We hope that if these students know at least one member of the staff, they will feel comfortable coming to the Health Center and will make us aware of how we can best serve our minority students.

An interesting idea. Would it work? Would more people who need to go to the health center actually go if they knew someone there? If so, it would be a good idea. Now that its hours are so reduced, it is good to encourage people to go. The health center is also trying to increase contact with CDE students, which is an aspect of college diversity that no other report considered. The report ends on a sad yet valiant note:

The Health Center staff is not as diverse a group as we would like, but the individuals are committed to being allies to our students. … Our attempts at increasing diversity within our hiring pool through the alumni office and others have not been successful.

Well, okay, keep it up and thanks for trying.

Religious Life and Community Service:
Rick Spaulding has the best recommendations of any of these reports. He suggests that for JA and HC training,

Replace the models of “information fairs” and perfunctory “panels” of student services staff with substantive, interactive explorations of the lived experience of diversity… Take steps to change the culture of these training sessions so as to add a far stronger sense of the gravity of the matters that we are counting on these students to address. Equipping JAs to be more effective teachers about issues of diversity, and more effective front-line enablers of community, would be a far more valuable way for them to spend their very limited training time (especially in May) than “bonding” with each other. Why is bonding with each other more important than spending time taking a hard look at the way race and class still have sharp edges at Williams?

Perhaps David Kane would have an opinion on this subject, but it sounds like a great idea to me. He also makes the good point that

…the realities of religious diversity might offer a way to break through the layer of predictability that, for many, “diversity training” may have acquired. Most Williams people have been asked to think, maybe frequently, about how they view racial differences, and perhaps even economic differences. Fewer of them may have been asked to think about how they view religious differences. It could be that this topic would offer a fresh avenue of approach, during orientations and trainings, to the common heart of the matter, which is sensitive, thoughtful, educational engagement with the realities of difference between people.

Career Counseling:
This report is not very deep. One of its three recommendations is:

We recently proposed to link our diversity resources to the MCC home page, which was positively received by the MCC Director.

Awesome. Hey, maybe I’ll link to you, too. Come on, let’s think of something better than a link! But as I pointed out way up at the top in the first section, URMs get a disproportionate number of Williams-sponsored fellowships and internships, so the OCC is probably doing a pretty good job.

Did you make it this far? Thanks. Now, discuss.

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