[This thread is an elevation from another post. In consideration of other discussions, it may be lowered in priority or temporarily removed. -K]

Frank, hwc, ’04 and All,

First, thanks for your responses. Because this is not the kind of seminar where we can look across the table at one another for guidance, I hope I may use them as a series of starting points in examining Goff-Crews (and Hu-DeHarts’) concrete proposals.

As you seem to note, the consultants’ section of the report, and the report in general, is more-than-complex in structure. I tend to prefer that proposals begin with a very short goal or mission statement and a series of bullet points. Literary theorists (and we later) may ponder that the policy recommendations of these reports are not clearly highighted by such bullet points, or even vertical bars and bold titles.

Rather, they seem subordinated within the larger narrative of the reports, a narrative that (I think it is fair to say) seems disjointed and confusing … in that old question from first-year philosophy, what do we make of how this is presented to us?

But before we get to “narrative” and structure, perhaps it is time to do what others have done– pull out the specific proposals of this section of the report, and place them in something like bullet point structure (with my comments, which I’ll keep very brief).

Goff-Crews’ specific proposed action items (using her headers) are thus:

Proposed Diversity Initiatives to Improve the Quality of Student Life

1. Create [a] centralized academic support center:
(self explanatory?)
2. Consider reshaping transition programs:
Goff-Crews suggests that existing Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences summer transition programs have their components extended into term-time, “strengthening” their impact”.
3. Use New Residential Plan to Enhance Initiative: [my emphasis]:
Goff-Crews suggests the development of a “full-blown” diversity training model for HCs and JAs, and use the new house system as a “new opportunity” to enhance “awareness” of “diversity.”
4. Enhance Role of Associate and Assistant Deans in the Diversity Initiative Efforts:
Goff-Crews suggests that the Deans take a stronger role in campus life, that the officially make themselves available to address racial/diversity issues, and that they become more “connected” to such issues by assigning one Dean to diversity/race issues.
5. Make campus protocol and expertise on racial incidences transparent:
In short, appoint an Omsbudperson to as point-of-contact for racial issues, and distribute a policy document that outlines procedures.
6. Enhance diversity of Health Services staff:
(self-explanatory?)
7. Regularly discuss diversity issues among senior staff:
(self-explanatory?: senior staff should meet every six weeks to explicitly address these issues).
8. Consider creating fellowship opportunities to attract more diverse senior administrators to Williams:
(self-explanatory, but within, the suggestion is that current senior staff can explicity serve as mentors for a more diverse junior staff)
9. Recognize and enhance support staff efforts to support student development:
recognize that ‘support staff’ such as secretaries, dining services etc play a key role in student life, and “regularly” educate these support staff in diversity issues.

Do we believe in these proposals?


Regardless, the above is the real “meat” of the section, and again I have to wonder, why each section of the report does not begin something like:

INTRO: …
We therefore propose:
[series of actions]

and then proceed to justification and discussion? Other than giving me a headache to read through– what does the form used in these sections in tell us about intents?

Next, on the face of things, I agree with the basic logic of most of these proposals. I as much as proposed #9 in an earlier post; and who can argue with the fact that various better cross-departmental (Deans-Academic Departments-Staff-Housing Clusters) structures of communication would help Williams acheive goals? As for an Academic Complex…

But: did really I propose #9 as it is stated? The concrete content of Goff-Crew’s proposal seems to me to be largely formal: develop handbook of statements about “diversity” and “racial incidents,” and deliver these to the support staff with regularity. Encourage them to connect with the students on these issues on a more regular basis. And I keep wondering: how? If this comes down to a series of “formal” “rules,” I’m not sure of the effect. If it encourages students and faculty and others to interact meaningfully, and create their own relationships, understandings and solutions– I am more positive.

I see no discussion of such issues. A proposal such as an “ombudsperson,” while formally positive, seems to me both top-heavy and lacking in detailed substance. As stated elsewhere, I’d like to see issues rarely reach such a level; I believe that people will produce better solutions if they are free to– and first attempt to– do so among themselves.

Equally, I wonder if we could not look closely at proposals 1 through 9, propose four or five different structures and ways of implementing each goal? Would we not then have the task of approximately weighing the costs and benefits of each restructuring– and, in that process, learn a bit or more than a bit about the diversity we were trying to acheive at the same time? While Alex Woo has reminded me recently that such work can be very hard, for now, I’ll go so far as to suggest that this is what Williams is not doing above, and that some version of such a project is what we should be doing.

In my initial introduction, my hope was to quickly frame these issues within a far larger history of course-changes and corrections within the University– and within particularly relevant examples of the College’s struggle with related issues. What I hope we attempt is to see these immediate debates from what someone such as Don Gifford might have called “the farther shore”– from moments whose criteria of judgment were far different.

From your comments, I have drawn three salient judgments about the the “Diversity Initiative” — feel free to correct my understanding of your words:

Frank: “Williams claims that it is seeking to become more diverse… [but] what is a precise definition of the diversity being sought?” (And what are the cost/benefits of each form? Etc. I believe the project outlined above lacks any such final definition at its core, and that it hesitates from engaging in cost-benefit an analysis. Yet I believe it does have a vision…
hwc: “I… found the the “diversity report” to be frustrating[.] My frustration derives from a lack of an clear rationale for these initiatives.” I take the main point here to be “lack of clear rationale…,” and I agree. But: I believe the proposal texts themselves are truly difficult to “parse,” if not obsurantist… and that there are underlying (exoteric) rationales.
’04:Each… marks time in the same tugs of war over un-PC/delicate questions. All of these matters will be revisited… [and] that’s a moving target. With great respect to your idea of constant revision, what I’d like to add is that this seems to be a ship whose course is constantly being changed mid-journey.

In my next installment of this inquiry, I hope to re-visit the consultants’ report again, to trace some of its rationale and committments and draw what answers it may give to each of the three inquires above… and to place its intents within the history of “revisions” of the goals and “uses” of the University.

But for now, what do we make of the above proposals? For instance, how many students would like to see an “Academic Complex” at Williams? What would it mean for “character”– and the meaning of the Williams experience?

Here at WKU, we have a big round brick building that says “Academic Complex” on the side– a mid-70s addition that followed similar accoutrements at Berkeley and elsewhere. What is an Academic Complex? What does it mean to concentrate “academic” goals into such a “container?” And in terms of all our goals and rationales, our guesses at costs and benefits, how does such an “innovation” relate to the idea of having a hundred professors sitting on logs– and the fact that Clark Kerr was so worried about using that particular Williams value, as to place the image of its loss within the first page of the most important work of his life, to mention it on par with Oxford and Glasgow, just before Berlin and the German University, and far before Harvard and many others?

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email