Another interesting discussion from Morty’s visit to College Council.
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.
Exactly right. The only requirements that Williams should have are 32 classes and a major. Everything else is either unnecessary or counterproductive. Now, individual departments have the right to require whatever they want. If PHIL wants to require a tutorial to be a philosophy major or ECON wants to require two writing intensive courses, then that choice is within the purview of those departments. See here for related discussion.
Note that the topic of public speaking requirements is particularly ridiculous because Williams already has a public speaking requirement, at least if you are a MATH/STAT major. I am unclear on the exact details (clarifications from current students welcome) but I think that every MATH/STAT major needs to present a public colloquium (see here for an example by Kristin Sundet ’08. This is a serious presentation, requiring students to thoroughly master a small part of mathematics. All the students that I have discussed this with have praised the exercise, describing it as one of the highlights of their academic careers at Williams.
No professor at Williams should propose a public speaking requirement until her department has already instituted one.