One of the purposes of EphBlog is to report on and capture bits of Williams history in the making. With any luck, these bits of ephcana will be useful to future historians.

One mystery of the new neighborhood plan is where the idea of four clusters and first years in Mission Park came from. It was not mentioned in any public discussion that I can find (although my fellow social engineers and I discussed housing freshmen in Mission 20 years ago). Fortunately, Dean Roseman was on Straight Talk (WCFM talk radio show hosted by Andrew St. Louis ’09 yesterday, so I called in with a question. See below for the details.

Unfortunately, there is no podcast, recording or transcript of the show. The following is from my notes with the quotes as best as I could capture them on the fly. My political position is pro-free-agency and pro-first-years-in-Mission, but I have tried to just report the facts. I hope to reach out to some of the folks mentioned here for more details.

According to Roseman, the idea for 4 clusters started with concerns about the (too small) size of the clusters in the original plan. Were there going to be enough students leaders to run things in such small clusters? These fears were expressed by a variety of people, especially at a meeting she attended — sometimes called the “Deans Meeting” even though it includes non-Deans — in November/December. This worried her enough that she went to Will Dudley and Doug Bazuin (or maybe just one of them?) and pushed him/them to think about a 4 cluster plan. Dudley, at least, was “annoyed” to have to revisit something that had already been settled on, but was willing to reconsider things.

But, try as anyone might, there was just no easy way to come up with a four cluster plan that made sense. Everyone agreed that clusters needed to be equitable in terms of housing quality and geographically unified. Doug Bazuin reported that this is a “mathematical problem and this [the current 5 cluster plan] is the only solution.”

Then, in December, Doug Bazuin and Director of Security Jean Thorndike were having lunch in the faculty club. [It would be fun to know the date.] During this lunch, they came up with the idea of putting the first years in Mission, thereby allowing the Currier cluster to be 1/4 (or more) of the campus, thereby allowing a 4 cluster plan with (more or less) equal size and geographic unity. “The logic of it speaks for itself,” in Roseman’s words. They went to Roseman with the idea. One key is that, filling Mission with first years works out more or less perfectly given the numbers. That is, there is enough room in Mission to fit everyone, but no so much room that there is space left over. Having four neighborhoods also removed the need for a Tyler cluster, a problem that everyone recognized and worried about the original plan.

[Editor’s note: What I really want to know is where Bazuin and/or Thorndike got the idea. Thorndike, whose praise was sung by Roseman during the interview, is a veteran of the Williams scene for many years. Perhaps this is an idea that she had heard kicked around in the past? Or perhaps Bazuin had come up with it from his experiences elsewhere? Historians will want to know!]

At that point, Roseman took the idea to senior staff. All were impressed and interested. It wasn’t clear to me if, at this stage, was when she went to Dudley. I think so, but it was tough to keep up with the interview. Dudley was nonplussed to see a brand new approach yet, as always, ready to do whatever is best for the College. Since Roseman had a meeting with the JA advisory board that day anyway, she mentioned the idea to them. They were also intrigued. They wanted to know if they could talk about it with other people. Roseman gave her permission and also notified the CUL. (I think that this occurred around December 15th.)

Roseman described her thought process throughout this time period “looking for the poison pill.” Surely, she thought, there must be something that makes this plan unworkable. By showing it to a lot of people, she hoped to flush out this problem. But no one ever found a deal-killer. And, hence, four neighborhoods with first years in Mission was born.

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