The CUL asked for Neighborhood names. Here are my thoughts (much influenced by the WSO discussion).

1) No names now! It will, of course, be very hard for the worthies on CUL to resist naming the neighborhoods right now. Who wouldn’t want to shape such a fundamental part of the Williams landscape? But, since there is no consensus on even a minimal set of reasonable names, the decisions should be postponed. Let students get used to neighborhoods for a year or two. Use the current names for now.

2) If we must name now, then let us please make the names, considered as a group, consistent. The students need to be able to vote on three or four “slates” of names. Given the wonder of cell phones, this could be done live during the overall neighborhood meeting, perhaps with lowest vote total removed after each round, as is done for Olympic city selection. That might even be exciting.

3) If we are to have slates, then local mountains or rivers would make a natural choice, as suggested by Professor Frederick Rudolph ’42. Consider mountains:

Mount Greylock is like an island, different in geology, climate and ecology from its local surroundings. Rising above the region one can view the neighboring Taconic, Hoosac, and Green Mountains and Berkshire Hills, and further in the distance, the Catskills, Adirondacks and White Mountains.

Although the geography does not match up perfectly, one choice would be.

Dodd == Green
Wood == Taconic
Spencer == Hoosac
Currier == Berkshire

The Hoosac Mountains are much closer to Currier, but the historical terminology of “Berkshire Quad” might make that change too confusing.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a decent on-line map of the area to come up with some mountain peaks (as opposed to mountain ranges) and rivers suggestions.

4) If we are to have slates, then the current names (Dodd, Currier, Wood and Spencer) should be included in the voting.

5) If we are to vote and use slates, then why not include the Harry Potter names? Part of me thinks that this is stupid, and part is sure that the students would vote accordingly, but that is why we have elections. If so, then the only listing consistent with the history of Williams is:

Wood == Gryffindor
Dodd == Slytherin
Spencer == Ravenclaw
Currier == Hufflepuff

6) What other slates could there be, if we restrict our choices to names that have some direct connection to Williams or to the local area? Tough question! Most of the major names in Williams history already have buildings named for them. One theme might be Williams presidents. (Unfortunately, the history page on this topic has vanished, but Wikipedia still has a listing.) One choice might include: Baxter, Sawyer, Chandler, Garfield. Baxter is probably the most important president of Williams since Mark Hopkins. Sawyer and Chandler were also extremely important. I don’t know enough about Garfield’s time in office (1908-1934) to be sure of his importance, but there are 4 neighborhoods so . . .

I’ll leave it to others to map these names to specific neighborhoods. Going with this slate would probably require that some Sawyer library and Chandler gym be renamed, but that is a feature not a bug. Whoever is the big $50 million donor to The Williams Campaign deserves at least a library name.

So, if we must have an election, then we should do so via slates with the slates to include a) current names, b) mountains/rivers c) presidents and d) Hogwarts. But the better option is to wait for a year or two and then appoint a committee, as was done in the naming of the Greylock and Mission dorms.

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