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CCI Minutes 9.18


Here are the CCI minutes from our last meeting.

The interviewing phase of things has started and it seems to be going well.  We are going to be holding a forum with JAs at their meeting with Dean Dave on October 6, and have tentatively set a date to meet with last year’s JAs.  As per usual, let me know if there are any questions!

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#1 Comment By David Kane On September 19, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

Thanks for the update! I thought that this was interesting.

MinCo’s input: social issues get glossed over by the administration and nothing really happens, while academic issues are dealt with rapidly and have appropriate punishment.

1) I have no doubt that this is the opinion of many students in MinCo (and perhaps other students as well). If a student does bad thing X is a class (cheat on a test, copy a paper), she gets punished. If a student does bad thing Y out of class (write something nasty on someone else’s door, shout a racial remark), nothing happens. Some members of MinCo see this as a real problem. It upsets them and makes them think that Williams is a less welcoming/supportive environment than it is or should be.

2) The problem, as any administrator will tell you off the record, is that the College can’t easily punish bad thing Y because bad thing Y is not really against the rules (although some people think it should be against the rules). A great examples include Mary Jane Hitler and Barnard/VISTA. In both cases students (presumably including some in MinCo) thought that the perps should have been punished. In both cases, they were not. (That’s the official story. Barnard was fired, but the College will not admit that it was over those remarks.) But, in both cases, there was really nothing that the College could do since all statements were protected by standard free speech arguments. See my endless commentary.

3) So, here is a problem that the CCI can and should address! Some students (including some MinCo students) think that a student (or faculty member) who says bad thing Y should be punished and, in fact, will be punished. They expect punishment. But those expectations are wrong. The College hasn’t ever and won’t ever punish such speech. Anytime there is a mismatch between expectations and results, there is a problem.

The CCI could fix that by explaining to everyone at Williams what the policy actually is by giving detailed descriptions of past events and explanations of what was done and why. We need something just like the regular reports from the Honor and Discipline Committee. For example, explain to the Community exactly what happened in the Mary Jane Hitler controversy (using real names or not) and why no action was taken.

(You do not even need to know exactly why Dean Roseman too no action. You can’t read her mind and she may not want to tell you.) But you can explain why a reasonable Williams Dean might take no action in such a case and, thereby, make clear to current students why they should not necessarily expect any action in the future.

The CCI might also go through some hypothetical cases as well. Recall our Willy E. N-word discussion.

A written document that gave a “sense of the community” about what events have happened and what future events would lead to would help to set student expectations appropriately. This document/discussion would neither implement policy (only the faculty can do that) nor restrict action (Dean Merrill can punish as she pleases) but it would provide a guideline to what has happened and a useful forecast to what would happen.

I think that the CCI, or someone else, should create such a document.