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Exploratory Committee for Community Ethics

First off, I hope that you alumni had a chance to read what your executive committee placed as a full page ad in the Record this week. Credit also to Neil for catching the titles error in the 17th comment.

The Stand With Us Social Honor Code group is proposing:

A committee called the “Exploratory Committee on Community Ethics” (ECCE) of 15 voting members: 9 students, one of whom is Chair, three faculty representatives, determined informally in consultation with Wendy Raymond, and 3 staff: the Chaplain to the College, the Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity, and a representative from the Dean’s Office, to be named by the Dean of the College.

Current slate of goals in the link.

1. Review the structures we have, both de jure and de facto, in regards to community ethics

2. Analyze the structures in place at other institutions,

3. Plan and execute various methods of soliciting public opinion

4. Draft a statement of community ethics in line with community consensus, if found to be necessary at all, with a possible enforcement component if needed

5. Present its work to the campus community for a possible referendum, along with supporting documents

Currently, the idea is in the of CC, which is deciding if its going to back the committee. I welcome thoughts and comments from the Ephblogosphere.

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#1 Comment By dkane On February 28, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

Thanks for the post, but I am confused.

1) Whose “executive committee” placed this ad? That of Stand With Us? Where did the money come from?

2) Who decided that the faculty spots would be “determined informally in consultation with Wendy Raymond?” Rarely is anyone but the president of Williams given this sort of authority. Can Raymond veto people? What if someone like, say, James McAllister volunteered to serve. Would she forbid that?

3) What was the reasoning behind this structure? (I think that the structure is fine, but more background is always helpful.) In particular, the President traditionally has a big say (often the only say) in the membership of major committees like this one. Did people know this? Did they think about having Morty pick the faculty and decide against that approach?

4) How will the students be chosen? How will the chair be chosen? Who will do the choosing?

5) Has there been an all-campus e-mail on this topic? If so, could you print it?

If I were a member of the CC, I would want to know the answers to these questions before I formed an opinion on the topic.

#2 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On February 28, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

1) That would be the alumni executive committee. Their ad was on the whole issue, and not about this post’s specific content.

2) This issue came up in CC, and rightly so. That meant that WR had speaking time at the next faculty meeting, and would be soliciting faculty. She will not have veto power, and and CC is going to get ironed down options on this. Steering committee is a possibility.

3) I did not know about any historical role for the president. We have an internal document drafted on why we chose this structure, but it’s still being edited. I’ll sent it to David to parse later.

4) The reason CC is debating this is to decide if CC wants to include this group in its regular appointments process, which involves CC campus.

5) No, there has not, because nothing has been decided yet. This is the formal recommendation from Stand With Us, which does not have the authority to send an all-campus e-mail.

#3 Comment By hwc On February 28, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

Could somebody please take a moment to describe what the Alumni Executive Committee wrote in this week’s Record?

#4 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On February 28, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

I’m going to try to describe it beyond a general statement condemning the Willy E event and how it went against Williams.

If you want more (it had a few paragraphs), I suggest asking one of these people:

http://www.williams.edu/alumni/communities/soa/officers.php

#5 Comment By dkane On February 28, 2008 @ 5:49 pm

Thanks to Will for the tip. Brooks Foehl ’88 kindly provided the pdf.

Mostly harmless pap.

Also, any updates on the attempt to document the recent history of such incidents?

#6 Comment By dkane On February 28, 2008 @ 6:00 pm

If I were in favor of a social honor code, I would recommend:

1) If you want something like this to be a success, you want to get Morty on your side. You need him to buy into the process so that, whatever results the process produces, he is honor-bound to buy into those as well. I would allow him to appoint the faculty.

2) You want buy in from student leaders. Best way to do that is to give CC the right to select the students. I do not expect this to be a big cost since I don’t expect that that many students will volunteer. And, to arrange that, you could require an essay from all applicants. With few to choose from, CC will then be stuck with whoever applies, most likely Stand With Us members. CC is jealous of its prerogatives, so you want it on your side.

3) I think including folks like Reed and Spalding is smart, since you already know (?) that they are pro-code. You are packing the committee without seeming to. Clever!

4) I would recommend that this committees role be better specified, with dates and requirements. They should submit a report by X date. That ensures that something gets done. Even better would be a series of reports, each with its own date. So, for example, report 1 on the practices at Williams and other schools could be due by April 15. Survey forms distributed on April 30. And so on. Without clearer guidance (and with such a broad mandate), it is easy for a large committee to lose its way. It would certainly be good to finish 1-3 before summer, otherwise momentum will be lost.

5) You really want Wendy Raymond on this committee.

Again, all of the above assumes that a social code is needed. I disagree, so I hope this advice is ignored.

#7 Comment By frank uible On February 28, 2008 @ 6:28 pm

David: You surely know that you have suggested a form which would be destined to die of bureaucratic inertia – promptly.

#8 Comment By hwc On February 28, 2008 @ 7:01 pm

Thanks, DKane, for posting the alumni ad.

My class rep had called back last weekend to say that, upon checking, this issue was being raised in more than one fundraising call.

I had earlier refused to contribute this year and told him that the reason was the College’s tepid response to the outrageous anti-semitism of the Mary Jane Hitler episode.

#9 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On February 28, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

One of the problems we’ve hit is what a “Social Honor Code” is. When I voiced support for it, I was hoping for a statement of the student body that let us establish what we expect of each other, instead of ceding that solely to the administration.

However, the phrase inspires lots of misconceptions, especially a parallel to the Academic Code, with its harsh penalties and secret committee. This is a false comparison, and hence the name change.

It is my hope that students want to hold each other to some standard, disciplinary or not. If the committee finds that not to be the case, I hope that they would produce a document stating so so that we don’t continue to have cyclical agitations for something like this.

David, I think you presume that this committee is an attempt to cover the movement to a social honor code (however you define it) with more legitimacy.

That’s not what I’m going for.

Morty’s appointing is an idea I will raise. I think I already said that we are letting CC appoint the students. I’m glad that you know what Reed and Spalding want, but if you have suggestions for more appropriate staff members, let’s hear them.

My goal is seeking this is to have a conversation that is facilitated in the best way possible.

#10 Comment By hwc On February 28, 2008 @ 7:40 pm

Morty is not going to get involved.

It seems to me that this week brought the usual trajectory to these annual events:

a) After an “exhaustive” investigation, the Dean’s Office announced that they are officially burying the incident with no perp, no punishment, no nothing. They’ve towed away the wreckage, now just move on, nothing to see here.

b) Letters to the editor start appearing saying, “Yes, the n-word is vulgar, but it was just a drunk and everyone really needs to just get a thicker skin….”

#11 Comment By rory On February 28, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

I would highly recommend that the committee not include anyone in the administration at first. Not because I don’t trust or like the administration, but because I think the community is best served by forcing the issue organically, not via traditional methods of committees, etc.

If the administration does not like the proposal but the community does, let that issue come when it must. But the administration has a standing reason to not be interested in radical change, and that should be on the table.

Again, I’m not questioning the administration’s intent or intellect. But their job is to figure out how to run williams effectively AND efficiently. The committee’s job should be to push the administration to shift itself, potentially in ways it does not want to go. Face that potential burden when you must, but don’t put the potential obstacle into the initial aspect of planning. Meet with the administration–include them in the discussion, certainly. but don’t let them into the creative process necessarily.

Also, just because a random loud alum wants certain people involved doesn’t mean they should. In fact, considering said random loud alum’s position on the controversy, I’d take all of his suggestions with some serious grains of super-salt.

#12 Comment By Jonathan ’05 On February 28, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

Well, Rory, your nearly unadulterated dislike of David and his ideas notwithstanding, I think his suggestions of involving Wendy and Morty are due to David’s belief that these moves will result in passage of the committee’s decision in the end. I think he’s realizing it would invite more compromise in content, but greater efficacy. I think that’s a reasonable point of view, and one that he genuinely means as advice to social code seekers—not an attempt at sabotage.

I have a stance between the two of you. I actually think Rory has the right idea about innovating now and worrying about implementation and confrontation later. It is hard for me to ever imagine that the loudest opponents of a social honor code will be in the admins. It’s going to be students. If the students ever get together on standards they want to hold themselves to, how on earth is a dean presently explicitly charged with enforcing community standards going to stand in their way? Especially if the topic has made it to fundraising circles.

Faculty do have a role on the committee though—and I think David has the right idea in perceiving that role. He seems to regard faculty’s presence as a help to getting the product put into effect eventually. I have to agree—the idea that you involve the audience you need to sell from the get-go jives with everything I know about policy-making. In other words, Rory, I think you and I are in agreement that the best product could (would?) come from students alone, but the best salable product might need a coalition.

What’s great is that the students chartering this committee obviously came up with most (all?) of the above already. Stand With Us has a mob-like aspect and a reasoning aspect. This is a good sign.

But having faculty is definitely a risky business. Faculty lack the stake that students do. They lack the perspective and the fact of being eventually bound by any code. They are not presently even bound by the Academic Integrity code. This impetus was not born of their ranks, but of the students (as it should be). Their role here is a delicate one . . . I hope they view it soberly, and are ready to defer. I hope faculty members of the committee do not try to drive or steer it, but rather help students craft their impetus into its best-applied form, and then go forth and fill their role as salesmen to their constituency.

The student chair of this group will have a monumental task. And if they know what is what, they’ll have a good note-taker as well.

Finally, David:

Best way to do that is to give CC the right to select the students. I do not expect this to be a big cost since I don’t expect that that many students will volunteer. And, to arrange that, you could require an essay from all applicants. With few to choose from, CC will then be stuck with whoever applies, most likely Stand With Us members. CC is jealous of its prerogatives, so you want it on your side.

This is poor advice in this case. No student needs to hear any of us opine on how defensive today’s CC is of its “prerogatives”. They can ask CC. Easily. The current co-pres has been in on this thing from the ground floor. I highly doubt he is defensive of his “purview,” whatever that would mean. I think it’s highly likely that the mechanism in place for appointments is the best (I served on it twice, and felt it and the funding body were CC’s fairest processes) but that particular choice does not benefit from our advice.

#13 Comment By dkane On February 28, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

Rory,

Why must you question my good faith?

Also, just because a random loud alum wants certain people involved doesn’t mean they should. In fact, considering said random loud alum’s position on the controversy, I’d take all of his suggestions with some serious grains of super-salt.

So, you think that I am lying? That I really believe that strategy X is more likely to work but that I am suggesting strategy Y to be nefarious? Please, give me more credit. It is fine to argue that I am stupid and that my advice will backfire but don’t challenge my basic honesty.

But the administration has a standing reason to not be interested in radical change, and that should be on the table.

Says who? Morty is happy to push through “radical change” that he agrees with, e.g., faculty expansion, Stetson-Sawyer, Neighborhoods, admissions. But I do agree that he does not want any change in this dimension, which is why you need to co-opt (sp?) in the process.

And, with regard to Frank’s comment, it could be that my suggestions are very wrong, that any new 15 person committee is doomed to fail. If so, a better strategy might be to use CUL, which has a long history of getting stuff done. Make this topic the focus for CUL starting now through end 2009. You could still appoint many of the same faculty, students and staff that you want to appoint to the new committee but, with CUL’s institutional knowledge, more would get done. At the very least, a decent report would come out.

Another point: I think the current plan puts too much emphasis and trust on having 9 students and a student chair. You think that faculty and staff will respond well to that? You think that they will want to serve on such a committee? You think that the process is more likely to be successful with a student chair? I would take the other side of that.

Great committee chairs like Michael McDonald and Will Dudley get things done. This committee would benefit from faculty leadership. And the final product would be in no way compromised in student eyes. (I still expect that students wouldn’t like it, but that would be because of the result not the process.)

#14 Comment By rory On February 28, 2008 @ 9:29 pm

its only “nearly unadulturated”? and its mostly that he feels like he’s in a position to offer advice to a group he’s at the same time bashing. and his political ideas. i’m sure he’s a perfectly nice guy in real life. i might even enjoy having a beer with him as long as the conversation sticks to sports.

#15 Comment By rory On February 28, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

lol…twice now david and i have been responding at the same time.

David, I’m not necessarily questioning your honesty. But who takes advice from an enemy (which, no disrespect, you are in the case of Stand With Us)? What it does mean is that some basic assumptions (action is needed, for example) are actually disagreements. As such, your very in-the-box, cooperative style may be at odds with what they should do because you disagree with their assumptions.

I mean, now you’re suggesting to students that they give up chairpersonship of their committee on a student honor code to faculty?!? Are you serious? And I have to defend saying students should take your advice with grains of salt? LMAO.

In general, I find it really disingenuous that you are attacking the group and offering advice to the group. It can’t be good faith, because you’ve publicly accused them (and/or their members) of sparking “buffoonry” and desiring something you find completely absurd. If you’ve taken that stand, so be it. your role is no longer to be an advisor. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too.

#16 Comment By kthomas On February 28, 2008 @ 9:57 pm

rory:

From my perspective as a Deep Springer– who left Williams for Deep Spring’s direct student democracy and “groundrules” codes of life, urged on by much of the Williams administration– and came back– it seems that David’s commonality with the movement is the belief, or principle, that the life of the college should be democratically self-determined by its members, not by — I believe the words used elsewhere today were “faceless bureaucrats”– but that’s not the world for individuals who, as Stanley Fish pointed out a few days ago, at the least, usually have no political or leadership experience.

FWIW, repeatedly from the late 60s to the late 80s, it was the administration calling for more student responsibility and a “behavior code.” (Wish I had a copy of the front page of the Record editor’s response to Angevine, to append here).

#17 Comment By Neil On February 29, 2008 @ 4:20 am

Errata? The blog title:

“Exploratory Committee on Community Engagement Ethics”

#18 Comment By dkane On February 29, 2008 @ 8:50 am

Rory writes:

David, I’m not necessarily questioning your honesty. But who takes advice from an enemy (which, no disrespect, you are in the case of Stand With Us)?

In general, I find it really disingenuous that you are attacking the group and offering advice to the group.

Why is this so hard to understand? There are members of Stand With Us (e.g., fellow EphBloggers Will Slack and Morgan Goodwin) that I like and respect. They are good Ephs. If they ask for my comments (as Will does above), then I will do my good faith best to provide useful advice. Wouldn’t you? I do not consider Stand With Us, as an organization, to be my “enemy.” That’s absurd.

In fact, I agree 100% with Will’s items 1-3 above. These are good things. They should be done. I want Stand With Us to succeed in doing them. Reasonable Ephs can disagree about whether they (and other goals) are more likely to be accomplished in a new committee or in CUL, whether or not a student chair is a good idea.

Now, it is true that other members of Stand With Us are folks that I disagree with. I fully expect to see some PC Buffoonery. Indeed, I think that Lee is a first concrete example. But can’t you understand that I might agree with some Ephs in SwU while disagree with others? That I favor some goals of SwU but not others?

These are not subtle points.

#19 Comment By Justin Thyme On February 29, 2008 @ 11:08 am

For some, the N or the C word is a term of endearment. For others, a mythical memory of treatment and abuse by “whites” or men.

Pejorative appellations dramatize the intense feelings we have towards one another. These are grievances, real and imagined. Time, events, laws will not heal these differences. One has to come to terms with them.

We may choose to limit transactions and proscribe intimate commerce between ourselves, but this is a choice we individually make for our personal, tribal, religious, and historical benefit. Laws will not change this. They will exacerbate relations, and / or diminish social vitality.

Change agents understand all this. They welcome the warming waters of Epimethean existence, where men forget who they are, and in a phlegmatic manner, sink out of history.

I believe that the use of all words is very important. There may be times when I may need to avail myself of the N or C word and use it with impact. To even think that I should not have this at my disposal within my arsenal is tantamount to genocide.

What a lobotomy was to the pseudo psycho practitioners, abortion was to our evangelizing feminists, and what PC’rs are today to social intercourse. The courts consider the use of numerous words corresponding to “assault” upon one’s person, assigning the charge of a first degree felony.

You may take these statements as strident, but I urge each and every one of you to understand the gravity of what has been stated and what the consequences are for your rush to rid yourselves of some inner misunderstood complaint. It is better to withdraw if you do not comprehend, than to enter as a member of a mob as a form of participation, for you will pay a price and it may not be what you paid for.

#20 Comment By Larry George On February 29, 2008 @ 11:36 am

Ken –

If you have time, could you tell us more about your Williams to Deep Spring to Williams journey as it relates to the issues at hand? (I personally find taking such a journey fascinating, quite aside from the current discussion, and would be pleased to hear more, not just limited to this week’s topic.)

#21 Comment By FROSH mom On February 29, 2008 @ 11:56 am

I second Larry on his request. From what I know of Williams, and of Deep Springs, I would love to hear your story.

And the longer and more detailed, the better […]

#22 Comment By Larry George On February 29, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

Thank you, dk, for getting hold of the executive committee ad. However much I may agree with the sentiments, I am troubled by any group purporting to speak for me and saying what my thoughts are or “should” be, without making that statement available to me, whether before making it or, if time did not permit, within a short time of making it.