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Concrete Demands

Looking for the latest updates on Willy E N-Word, Super Penis? EphBlog is your go-to source! Start with Andrew Goldston’s ’09 report on the meetings.

Of course there have been “incidents” before, and forums to discuss them, but never before have I seen the discussion turn truly productive. But that’s what happened here — a lot of people came together last night to talk about the problem and then figure out what to do about it. The meeting went for more than three hours before breaking, only to meet again tonight at 10 to get even more organizing done. I planned on being there tonight, but my schedule got complicated at the last second, and all I could do was drop in for a few minutes. There were even more folks there at 11-ish tonight than there were on Thursday night at 10, and several faculty were in attendance, as well as Mike Reed, VP for Strategic Planning and Diversity. People care and people are doing something about it. So, encouraging stuff.

Indeed. It is especially nice to see folks like Mike Reed ’75 involved. I still hope that someone is taking notes and will share those notes with the rest of us. Unfortunately, although we all agree on the sentiments here — vandalism, especially bigoted vandalism, is a bad thing — it is not clear what else we might agree on. Consider this WSO thread:

Julian Mesri: The meeting was an incredibly meaningful experience, not just because it managed to have a lot of different voices speak up on an issue that is not resolved on this campus, but because we resolved to make a change and came up with actual concrete ideas that we want to work on. The pact was a way of binding us to those goals, but keep in mind Nick we came up with 9 or so concrete goals that we will demand the administration take up, and the student body recognize. Rahul: If there were 9 concrete demands to the administration, post them here. Simple. Everyone wants to know what those were.

Indeed. With luck, the folks leading the efforts will tell us what those 9 demands are so that the rest of us might comment ahead of time. I suspect that many from the diverse tribe of Ephs will have some complaints. You can see hints of that in the WSO thread. Do any readers know what the demands might be, even in a rough draft form? Help us Will Slack!

UPDATE: I do not think that this is going to turn out well.

Rahul: Now hold on there. I smell bullshit. Fine, it’s not formal, but if there are ‘9 or so concrete demands’, let everyone know what they are. I get the feeling that nothing useful came about from all of this hoopla other than people generally agreeing that racism is bad and shouldn’t be tolerated. Good work. My 4 year old niece understands that.

Ellen Song: See, you assume that without any basis. You assume incorrectly, because we did come up with a lot of stuff. From the 9 goals that Julian mentioned, we narrowed it down to 3 things on our agenda at the second meeting yesterday. We split up into committees to delegate tasks. I’m not going to state those 3 things at the moment, because yesterday we agreed that we would be really sensitive about the message we send out to the campus, and be really organized in our methods. So I’d rather not haphazardly state those things here for people to misconstrue on WSO. If you don’t believe us, okay. That doesn’t hurt my feelings or anything.

No one wants hurt feelings, but I wonder if this is the best strategy. If you want the Administration to do X, then you need to unify the campus as best you can. The more open you are in the process of deciding on your goals (and I certainly agree that “goals” is a better word than “demands”), the more likely you are to succeed.

But, if your group decides on three items that large numbers of students disagree with, and then you put forward those goals as the only reasonable response to Willy E N-word, Super Penis, you are less likely to be successful. You want people like Rahul on your side, not fighting you.

Of course, if your goals are controversial enough (i.e., unlikely to command broad support), then perhaps keeping quiet about them at the start is a good idea. But that doesn’t prevent we kibitzers at EphBlog from playing a guessing game! What three items do you think are on the agenda? My guess: more faculty/staff diversity, more sensitivity training during First Days and more affirmative action in admissions. But, then again, perhaps the organizers are more original/sensible then I give them credit for . . .

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#1 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On February 8, 2008 @ 5:30 pm

All items are now on WSO posted by me, since my aversion to using that as a forum came off as secrecy (which is understandable in hindsight, as Williams has no equivalent public forum to WSO, despite its flaws). I’m also pleased to report that David was 0/3.

#2 Comment By kthomas On February 8, 2008 @ 6:59 pm

Will,

Could you link to that post of items? I would be appreciated.

My immediate comment would be that ‘all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.’ That reality should affect your efforts.

#3 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On February 8, 2008 @ 7:20 pm

From Emily Spine, who said it better than me:
1) Construction of a social honor code, to which people would be held accountable in a similar manner as the academic honor code.
2) A discussion day, in which we will raise awareness about issues on campus in a positive way.
3) Addressing subgroups on campus so that everyone is in some way involved in the discussions and honor code (subgroups being clubs, sports, musical ensembles, etc.).

#4 Comment By Eph On February 8, 2008 @ 10:27 pm

If there is a pervasive culture of discrimination against and hatred towards blacks (or other races) at this school than there is an issue to be made. In my time here, I have seen no such problem. Are slurs in Willytown tossed around too casually sometimes? Maybe. But they are in the real-world as well. There’s no need to flood mailboxes, demand change, make PACTS (!), and turn this into a with-us-or-against-us battle.

Perhaps we need to just see this for what it is, a drunken college kid trying to make a joke.

#5 Comment By aparent On February 8, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

“Construction of a social honor code”

Long overdue, in my humble opinion.

#6 Comment By aparent On February 13, 2008 @ 8:57 pm

I posted comment #5 above without realizing that the Wiliams Student Handbook already contains “The College Standards of Conduct,” quoted today by a student in a discussion on WSO and requoted below. Personally, I believe it sufficiently and fully covers anything I had in mind when I stated five days ago that I believed Williams needs a social honor code.

“As a residential college, Williams believes that for each student the experience of living with other students has an educational importance that should parallel and enhance his or her studies. For students to profit from living and working together, they must respect the rights of other members of the community in which they live and work-a community which includes students, members of the faculty and staff of the College, and other residents of Williamstown. The President, Trustees, faculty, and students of Williams College have established the codes of conduct described below to foster the learning that comes from living and studying with men and women of diverse backgrounds and from learning to honor opinions and beliefs that may differ from one’s own.

“The College Laws authorize the faculty to make rules for the proper conduct of students and to establish penalties for failure to comply with the faculty’s regulations or for failure to conform to those laws and standards of conduct by which the larger community safeguards individual rights and social order. Students must respect the rights of others, their persons and their possessions, and refrain from any disturbance to the peace of the College or the community around it. The College will hold students responsible if they fail to maintain good conduct on the campus or elsewhere.

“Individual Rights: Williams College does not discriminate on grounds unrelated to its educational objectives; it is committed to being a community in which all ranges of opinion and belief can be expressed and debated, and within which all patterns of behavior permitted by the public law and College regulations can take place. The community is varied, including people of diverse races, religions, national or ethnic backgrounds, gender expressions and gender identities, and sexual orientations, and its members may from time to time disagree with one another’s ideas and behavior. The College seeks to assure the rights of all to express themselves in words and actions, so long as they can do so without infringing upon the rights of others or violating standards of good conduct or public law.

“Accepting membership in this community entails an obligation to behave with courtesy to others whose beliefs and behavior differ from one’s own; all members and guests of this community must be free of disturbance or harassment, including racial and sexual harassment.”