Claiming Williams Day, “dedicated to campus-wide consideration of invisible and visible practices that can create or disrupt community,” will be a complete failure, although its proponents are unlikely to admit as much this year. See the Record for background. This program is one of the most concrete results of the Willy E. N-word controversy last spring.

Start with the calendar.

2009
Jan. 5 Monday First day of Winter Study Period
Jan. 28 Wednesday Last day of Winter Study Period
Feb. 3 Tuesday Organizational Meetings for classes that don’t meet the first two days of classes 7-9 p.m.
Feb. 4 Wednesday First day of classes Spring Semester (classes to follow a Thursday schedule)
Feb. 5 Thursday Claiming Williams Day, no classes
Feb. 6 Friday Classes resume a normal schedule

Pretty confusing, eh? The faculty were smart enough to realize that, if Claiming Williams were on a Friday, everyone would just enjoy the three day week-end. And if Claiming Williams were on the first day of the semester, no one would show up. So, by forcing students to show up for Wednesday classes (although be sure to use that Thursday schedule!) and then having them stay for Friday classes, the College can ensure that almost everyone will be in town on Thursday.

But nothing (reasonable) that the College can do could force students to attend the events associated with Claiming Williams. Since none of those events will be anywhere near as fun as Mountain Day, few students will go to them. And those students who do go will be precisely the 10% (2%?) that see Williams as a infected with a “culture of hate and indifference.” There will be much preaching to a small choir.

The central problem is that the people in charge of planning Claiming Williams Day are “hyperbolic and accusatory” in their view of Williams, to quote Professor Robert Bell. “Hate and indifference?” That’s absurd. And, more importantly, 90%+ of Williams students think it is absurd. Why would they bother to attend programming put on by a committee that they think is run by extremists? They won’t. You can cancel classes but you can’t make students pay attention to your cause.

I predict a big day on the ski slopes!

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