Launch for Claiming Williams tonight.

What’s Claiming Williams All About? Come find out from:

Ephlats, Lily Rodriquez, Coco Smith, Morty Schapiro, Stand with Us, Robyn Marasco, Rachel Ko, Dorothy Wang, SpeakFree: Oriana McGee, Stephane Robolin, Gretchen Long, The Oikos Ensemble, Tony Coleman, Henry Montalbano, Ethan Timmins-Schiffman, Rick Spalding, Shayla Williams. Staff, Students, Faculty. It’s about all of us.

This is at least the second version to appear on WSO. The first made it seem like Claiming Williams was a concert, with no political context whatsoever. Comments:

1) Any event involving the Ephlats, Morty and Rachel Ko ’09 can’t be all bad. EphBlog’s advice? Go! And tell us what it was like.

2) What is “SpeakFree?” UPDATE: SpeakFree is the College’s spoken word group.

3) Isn’t Stand with Us with us more or less defunct? Do they still have meetings? Who is in charge? Their website was last updated six months ago. (Previous coverage of the events last year collected here. )

4) I stand by my prediction that Claiming Williams will be a complete failure.

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!

Perhaps the organizers are smart to turn the event into a party. Everyone likes to listen to the Ephlats. A lecture on right thinking and good behavior by Professor Dorothy Wang or Chaplain Rick Spalding? Not so much.

The organizers of Claiming Williams are completely opaque in their plans and, as best I can tell, have sought no input from those suspicious of the whole exercise. (Contrary evidence welcome.) Compare that insularity with the transparency of the Committee on Community Interaction. If you want to make Williams a better place, that’s how you conduct business.

5) My advice for those who want to make Claiming Williams an annual event? Make it as much like Mountain Day as possible. Minimize the politics. Maximize the fun. I realize that this plan conflicts with the vision of some proponents, especially those who see Williams infected with a “culture of hate and indifference.” But if you make it too political, no one will come. And if no one comes, Claiming Williams will be canceled next year.

6) Again, to the extent that you believe that the Williams culture has serious problems, the only way to change it is to start with the freshmen. You can’t meaningfully change seniors. Expand First Days by a week next year and, assuming success, several weeks in following years. Focus on fun projects, games, contests and other activities that introduce as many Ephs as possible to each other. It is a lot harder to be a jerk to someone you know. If every freshmen knew the name of every other freshmen in her dorm (not just her entry) because she had done something (ate a meal, gone on a hike) with all her dorm-mates, the culture of Williams would be improved for the better.

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