Fun thread on neighborhood housing at WSO. Some highlights:

“Welcome to Williams College’s new housing system. As you may already know, the housing system is compromised of four neighborhoods, each with about a fourth of the student body affiliated or members.”

This is from the official neighborhood system webpage.

And yes, you read correctly, not comprised, compromised.

Ha! Miss my endless neighborhood housing analysis? Read on!

Most frosh I know are either indifferent or against it. Like Arjun, I’m pretty pissed that I’ll be forced to live in the same quad for three years (excluding coops/off campus housing/JAing) and never get even a shot at West, the Dodd quad, the Greylock quad, or the row houses. It seems a poor tradeoff to severely limit housing options and break up inter-entry friendships simply for the purpose of trying to develop some nebulous sort of cluster unity, which is compromised anyway by the aforesaid existence of off-campus housing, coops, JAs, and people studying abroad.

As I have said many, many times before, the central purpose of neighborhood housing was not to create “some nebulous sort of cluster unity.” Many good-hearted people hoped that this would/will occur and believe that it would make Williams a better place. But the fundamental driver was Morty’s belief that student self-segregation in housing was a BAD THING. Now, almost none of the official propaganda discussed this topic, but it is the only explanation that makes sense. (See here for endless discussion.) Morty gave a great talk at the April meeting of the Boston Society of Alumni at which he passionately argued that self-segregation was a bad thing. He described his memories of Penn during graduate school, of how much he didn’t like that there was, at that time, a “black” house and an Asian house and so on. To be sure, he also discussed other advantages of the system, or at least other aspects that would be more similar to the housing systems that his alumni audience was familiar with. Yet no one listening to that speech could conclude that getting rid of self-segregation (all the helmet-athletes in Tyler, all the African Americans in Brooks) was anything other than a top priority for Morty.

Interestingly, his main regret was that he didn’t act on this problem immediately upon coming to Williams.

My view is, and has been, that the cluster housing is something that requires a lot of work for dubious to no benefits.

Thus far, people have worked rather hard to plan events and “cluster unity” (whatever that means) – a commendable task, by any measure. But precious few benefits have materialized, and many people have suffered nagging (or serious) inconveniences.

Like communism, cluster housing sounds better than it actually is.

True! Again, the big mistake that Morty as a President (and Williams as an institution) made in this case was to fail to learn from the (successful) history of the Angevine Committee. Morty should have formed a commitee which included alumni, which sought a much broader cross-section of opinion. If he had, I think that a better solution would have become apparent, something along the lines of what I proposed. There is nothing wrong with getting rid of self-segregation. This could have been accomplished while retaining many/most aspects of free agency.

Fortunately, after a couple of years of neighborhood noodling, we will be able to revisit this topic. The key parts of a better system are fairly obvious. Keep First Year housing as it now is. Turn the Berkshire Quad (plus Morgan? plus Lehman?) into sophomore-only housing. Reserve Greylock for juniors. Allow seniors to form largish groups and bid for row housings in a selection process similar to the co-op draw. Expand co-ops to 150 spots. As long as you don’t allow (many) students from different classes to live together, you can prevent the self-segregation that Morty (rightfully!) despises. Allow free agency within each of these areas.

More later. Contain your excitement!

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