Another amazingly detailed set of College Council minutes from Emily Deans ’09. Morty was at the CC meeting and answered all sorts of interesting questions. Here are some of the highlights (and my comments) but read the whole thing.

Thomas Rubinsky (Class of 2010 Rep) asked whether the college was doing anything about the loss of the rectory as a co-op?

President Schapiro responded that he did not know whether the college was going anything but made several comments about how much he likes co-ops. He said that there may be some opportunities to turn buildings into co-ops once the North and South buildings are completed.

Good news! Co-ops are indeed one of the very best parts of student housing at Williams, and it is good to know that Morty agrees. One of my concerns about Neighborhood Housing was that the inevitable failure to create meaningful neighborhood community would lead the Administration to try to salvage the project by pulling seniors back into the neighborhoods, mainly by attaching co-ops to neighborhoods or by decreasing the number of seniors allowed to live off-campus. Perhaps there is no need to worry about that now.

Yet it is still a shame that the Administration take the obvious next step. If co-op housing is wonderful and popular (more than 1/2 of all juniors applied), why not create more co-ops? Genius, eh? Someone from Gargoyle or College Council ought to look into this, ought to come up with a plan that increases the number of co-ops even if it means taking nice senior housing away from the clusters. Such a plan could, if anything, make senior housing in the neighborhoods more equal than it is today.

Narae Park (Dodd Board Rep) then asked about the 2020 Committee.

President Schapiro said that the idea for the 2020 Committee is that we are supposed to look ahead about a dozen years to see what kind of challenges are going to confront Williams. Some examples he gave were improving the public schools and being competitive with our peer institutions in terms of financial aid packages. Williams keeps changing the financial aid packages but it is hard to compete with Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, etc. and we are competitive but part of discussion is financial aid and part of financial aid is trying to create a more inclusive society. He also mentioned the 1.5 million dollars the college has for next year for environmental initiatives. Then President Schapiro talked about globalization and bringing the world to Williams and Williams to the world. He said that part of the 2020 effort is to position the college to be a more attractive place that does a better job of educating students.

It would be nice if the College were to be more transparent about the 2020 planning process. We can’t all be invited to the special retreat in Oxford, but why not share 90% of the material that was passed out at those meetings? (Redact anything particularly sensitive.) A College Council member ought to ask to see this stuff.

Spending more money on the public schools is about the most inefficient means possible of making Williams a better college. But it does make the faculty happy!

Is it just me or is the number one most obvious priority matching the financial aid packages of Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford? I am not arguing that the College needs to be more generous than these schools, just that we shouldn’t force an applicant to pay $10,000 more to choose Williams.

Rachel Ko (Wood At-Large) asked about bringing the world to Williams and Williams to the world. Some students have been trying to push for experiential learning on campus and a lot of classes aren’t using local resources to really allow students to learn in the field.

President Schapiro said that faculty are very skeptical about giving credit for experiential things because it is very difficult to do it right. Most professors like what they teach and how they teach it and are skeptical about giving up control. Bringing the world to Williams means having a more globalized student body, faculty, and staff (increase international students) and that has made a difference. He thought that the curriculum and student body were in a pretty good place and want students to have a lot of experience outside of classroom but thought that it would be a tall order to ask faculty to give up control.

Exactly right. Although it is tough to know the exact meaning of “experiential learning” in this context (and I am a fan of Rachel Ko), no course credit should be given for anything outside of faculty control. Students should, of course, be encouraged to do all sorts of activities outside of classes and if someone wants to call this “experiential learning” all the better. But each semester you take 4 classes which Williams faculty judge important and rigorous. Many of those classes will involve work outside of the classroom, whether it is field observations in Hopkins Forest or studying paintings at the Clark. But a member of the Williams faculty is always in charge of the syllabus and evaluation.

President Schapiro was then asked about changes in scholarships. He said that the good news is that colleges are competing to be more affordable but he thought that some recent changes are things that aren’t necessarily fair. There are a lot of schools that have rich kids paying sticker price who aren’t as smart as the rest of the class and that is what need-aware admissions means. Williams does a good job and has a decent distribution of students with families all the way up the income ladder and the way to improve that distribution is to improve aid packages. He said that the new changes in aid are creating a bizarre incentive to put wealth in to home equity.

Good advice to all the Williams applicants among our readers. Indeed, there are probably dozens of current Williams students who could improve their financial aid package if their parents emptied the family (non-retirement?) savings accounts and put that money into home equity. If the money is in the bank, the College demands a piece of it. If the money is in your house, maybe not.

But Morty is being either naive or disingenuous to imply that this is some “problem” with the financial aid system that could be fixed via better policy, and/or collusion via the 568 group. The central issue is that very rich schools (H/Y/P/S) want to get the students they want and they have, for years, competed on price to do so. Williams is forced to either follow suit or have no non-rich student who could have attended HYPS choose us instead. The home equity “incentive” derives from this competition because HYPS found it convenient to cut price via the mechanism of ignoring home equity. Williams is forced to go along, not because it finds home equity a more sensible way to save but simply because of peer competition.

And the next steps in this competition are fairly obvious (and perhaps HYPS have already started in this direction). Soon, elite colleges will not even ask you for your savings. Your family’s wealth (whether stored in bank accounts or home equity) will play no part in your bill. Instead, they will just ask to see you 1040 and base the family contribution on your income.

Full minutes below and more commentary tomorrow.

College Council
Meeting: Question and Answer with President Schapiro

Wednesday, April
9, 2008, 7:30-9:00

Meeting in Hopkins
Hall Basement, B03 Classroom

All College
Council Meetings are open to the Williams Community. Anyone who wishes
to speak before Council should contact Peter and Jeremy (09psn and 09jmg_2).

Budgets:

This
week there was one budget for Immediate Theater Group. The amount requested
was $760.00 for a two-man performance. Recommended the full amount.

Jon Prigoff (Wood Board Rep)
motioned to pass the budget and Narae Park (Dodd Board Rep) seconded
it.

The
motion to pass the budget passed.

Question and Answer with
President Schapiro:

This
week, President Schapiro kindly came to the College Council meeting
for a question and answer session.

Thomas
Rubinsky (Class of 2010 Rep) asked whether the college was doing anything
about the loss of the rectory as a co-op?

President
Schapiro responded that he did not know whether the college was going
anything but made several comments about how much he likes co-ops. He
said that there may be some opportunities to turn buildings into co-ops
once the North and South buildings are completed.

Jon
Prigoff (Wood Board Rep) spoke about student frustration with receiving
news about decisions that the college has made after the fact. He gave
two examples, Goodrich and the Rectory, of decisions made before the
student body knows about it. He wondered if there were any considerations
about letting students know about things while they are happening?

President
Schapiro said that as members of CC we could ask faculty and administration
about these issues. He said that it is often not intentional that students
are not included in these decisions.

Peter
Nurnberg (co-President) said that the default is that if students ask
then they will be allowed in to the process rather than including students
from the beginning. He thought that this process should be changed to
include students in the decision making process from the beginning.

Emanuel
Yekutiel (Class of 2011 Rep) asked about changes in the event planning
process and brought up the fact that there are an increasing number
of obstacles students have to overcome to make events happen. He thought
that these social life barriers would frustrate students to the point
that planning events will be too hard (especially with new rules, restrictions,
and decreasing fire capacities in buildings).

President
Schapiro said that fire capacities are a bummer but the college wants
to make sure there are no moral problems (Goodrich could have been a
disaster last Spring). He said that sometimes really frustrating things
happen but there is not much to be done to change them.

Emanuel
responded that time and money are things that the college has, but what
we do not have are spaces to hold large social events. There are more
and more rules being put on the spaces that we do have that are restricting,
such as capacity, noise, and a whole host of other problems.

One
student then brought up the idea for party barn. Another mentioned the
possibilitiy of moving the Log so that it is right next to Parsons.

President
Schapiro said that the idea of moving the Log has been discussed and
because of its building structure, it was determined that it would not
survive the trip.

Brian
Shepherd (Pratt Rep) mentioned the issue of capacities dropping. He
said that buildings seem good when they are being built, but then once
the work is completed, they do not work as well as was intended. He
said that we couldn’t just keep putting on concerts in dining halls.
With capacities there isn’t a place on campus that can hold much more
than 10% of the student body.

CJ
Flournoy (Minority Concerns) added, saying that we need a different
and larger facility or venue to put on events in. He thought that Williams
needed to create something of that nature to attract students and improve
student life.

Narae
Park (Dodd Board Rep) then asked about the 2020 Committee.

President
Schapiro said that the idea for the 2020 Committee is that we are supposed
to look ahead about a dozen years to see what kind of challenges are
going to confront Williams. Some examples he gave were improving the
public schools and being competitive with our peer institutions in terms
of financial aid packages. Williams keeps changing the financial aid
packages but it is hard to compete with Harvard, Stanford, Princeton,
etc. and we are competitive but part of discussion is financial aid
and part of financial aid is trying to create a more inclusive society.
He also mentioned the 1.5 million dollars the college has for next year
for environmental initiatives. Then President Schapiro talked about
globalization and bringing the world to Williams and Williams to the
world. He said that part of the 2020 effort is to position the college
to be a more attractive place that does a better job of educating students.

Peter
Nurnberg (co-President) then asked about any special considerations
or changes about socioeconomic and cultural diversity and Faculty retention?

President
Schapiro said that Williams does not have a lot of the ongoing problems
that a lot of other schools have. We have the luxury at Williams to
step back and think about what is the core and basis of a Williams College
education, who we are attracting and why, and how the college can best
serve them when they get there.

Eve
Streiker (Class of 2009) asked a question about campus life and mentioned
successes and failures brought up the fact that it doesn’t have a
mission statement. She wondered how the College has not objectively
evaluated that office?

President
Schapiro responded by saying that he did not see the point in a mission
statement and said that he sensed that things are considerably better
than they were eight years ago. He has always believed that honest feedback
and change are the best ways to go. We keep taking little steps forward.
Frustration is that steps are really small and we are so far from the
finish line, but the College has made a lot of progress.

Rachel
Ko (Wood At-Large) asked about bringing the world to Williams and Williams
to the world. Some students have been trying to push for experiential
learning on campus and a lot of classes aren’t using local resources
to really allow students to learn in the field.

President
Schapiro said that faculty are very skeptical about giving credit for
experiential things because it is very difficult to do it right. Most
professors like what they teach and how they teach it and are skeptical
about giving up control. Bringing the world to Williams means having
a more globalized student body, faculty, and staff (increase international
students) and that has made a difference. He thought that the curriculum
and student body were in a pretty good place and want students to have
a lot of experience outside of classroom but thought that it would be
a tall order to ask faculty to give up control.

Janay
Clyde (Currier At-Large) referred back to Peter’s question about the
faculty and was wondering about student socioeconomic and racial differences.

President
Schapiro said that one of the big changes had been in the demographics
of the student body. All the colleges anticipate the change in the applicant
pool, which is an incredible opportunity. He said that part of the question
is how to ensure that everyone feels that it is their own Williams?
He said that we have done a better job of creating a more diverse student
body but we have not done a great job of having an inclusive student
body. We fell into the trap of thinking that diversity of student body
would change interaction among members of the student body and said
that we need to anticipate the way that people view Williams College.
About half of the students at Williams pay full price of tuition and
the other half are paying almost nothing and there is more of a divide.
He said that students have to expect more from the College and we are
constantly discovering these things. One example he mentioned was entry
dues, which Williams is now paying for. He said that despite these positive
changes, the college still has so far to go to figure out how to make

this the kind of community that we recruit people in to.

CJ
Flournoy (Minority Concerns) mentioned that students find it problematic
that they have to pay for snacks.

President
Schapiro responded that the easy things to solve are things that can
be solved with money.

CJ
Flournoy (Minority Concerns) said that MinCo recently learned about
an international student who had to take a leave of absence because
the Williams safety net did not catch this student.

President
Schapiro said that he thought it was very disappointed that Williams
does not have a minority member of psychological services yet at the
College and that the College is trying to get one specifically for the
reason that CJ mentioned.

President
Schapiro was then asked about changes in scholarships. He said that
the good news is that colleges are competing to be more affordable but
he thought that some recent changes are things that aren’t necessarily
fair. There are a lot of schools that have rich kids paying sticker
price who aren’t as smart as the rest of the class and that is what
need-aware admissions means. Williams does a good job and has a decent
distribution of students with families all the way up the income ladder
and the way to improve that distribution is to improve aid packages.
He said that the new changes in aid are creating a bizarre incentive
to put wealth in to home equity.

Jon
Prigoff (Wood Board Rep) brought up issue of how expensive books are,
the problems with the 1914 library, and the difficulty for students
not on financial aid to afford books.

President
Schapiro said that something that surfaced immediately in 2020 Committee
was changing the 1914 library and that steps are being taken to do so.

Jon
Prigoff (Wood Board Rep) then asked about the writing requirement and
asked about a public speaking requirement.

President
Schapiro said that the public speaking requirement failed by one vote
in May 2001 when the writing requirement, quantitative reasoning, tripling
of the number of tutorials were all passed. President Schapiro wanted
to require tutorials and thought a public speaking requirement would
be a way to get students involved in tutorials. For public speaking
requirement, 80% of the grade would be based on oral presentations.
Would like to bring it back as something that would come out of the
2020 Committee. He said that one problem with requiring tutorials is
that those who really want to be in course shouldn’t be paired with
those who don’t want to be there. However, he hoped to bring back
the discussion of public speaking and thinks there should be a tutorial
requirement. He then said that Williams competes against wonderful schools
that don’t have any requirements at all and this is problematic. He
doesn’t want Williams to be perceived as a paternalistic institution
where students are not trusted to make their own decisions.

Rachel
Levy (Treasurer) said that we are a liberal arts school and was intrigued
by the idea of not having requirements when she looked at other schools,
but feels much better being at Williams and having distributional requirements.

Emily
Deans (Secretary) brought up the point of how uncomfortable learning
is celebrated at Williams. Many students have enjoyed taking classes
that are interesting but are perhaps challenging because they are not
part of their area of study.

One
student suggested changing to a 3-3-2 requirement across the divisons
so that students could choose one division to take two classes in and
two to take three in. President Schapiro thought this was an interesting
idea and said that the college had not considered that.

Straw poll:

In favor of speaking requirements
(majority in favor)

In favor of requiring tutorials
(half)

In favor of no requirements
(one)

Rachel
Levy (Treasurer) then asked about the class of 2012.

President
Schapiro said that Williams takes about 40% of each class in the early
decision process. He said that if we were to lower this percentage the
college would have no idea about who was coming. He said that he thought
our yield would go down to 42% this year. President Shapiro said that
he is in favor of more supplementary essays to figure out who could
really benefit from and improve Williams College rather than our current
system of being on the common application. He said that Williams may
not be a “trophy” school with prestige around the world, but we
do have prestige value. He said that Williams is on anybody’s list
of the top ten or twelve schools in America and it isn’t clear that
the students who apply just for the Williams name are the students you
want to admit. He thought that supplemental essays would be a great
way to admit and enroll the best students who really could contribute
to Williams. He is excited about new class but worried that students
are picking Williams for the wrong reasons. He also worried that people
want to come to Williams as a stepping-stone for something else rather
than people who could really contribute and prosper at Williams.

Petya
Miteva (Dodd At-Large) commented that as an international student all
colleges look the same in their brochures. She thought that they need
to emphasize what makes Williams different and what Williams really
wants represented in its student body.

President
Schapiro talked about the view book. He joked that all colleges have
same view book and no one holds them accountable. However, he believes
that almost all we say is accurate, especially about our educational
philosophy. He reiterated that the admissions process worries him, especially
the fact that many of the kids we waitlist could be potentially better
than those we admit. The waitlist kids are in many ways better than
those who get in regular, but they are unhooked. Quite often the caliber
of Williams goes up when Williams accepts students off the waitlist
because the students are self-selecting and really want what Williams
has to offer.

At
this point the meeting had run out of time and College Council gave
President Schapiro a big round of applause and thanked him for taking
the time to meet with us to discuss our questions and concerns about
the College.

Absentees:
Two absences in a row or three in a term result in a member’s expulsion,
unless overridden by the secretary’s discretion or petition to the
Council.

Respectfully
Submitted,

Emily C. Deans

Secretary, College
Council

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