One of the comments posted on “Speak Up!” raises some interesting points about Winter Study. Parent ’12 says:

I have one idea for a topic, which relates to David’s posts and examples for cost cutting. Up front I want to make it clear that I’m not advocating for this.

How much would be saved if the Winter Study Program didn’t exist? I thought of this because I believe the college is attempting to save on utility bills over part of the December break by turning off heat in buildings. Obviously, there’s more to save than utilities, but what would it be?

All good questions, and ones that will surely inspire commentary. But they are also questions that made me realize how little I know about Winter Study.

My son has led me to understand that the primary objective of WSP is to have the opportunity to approach new and exciting subject matter, under the less stressful conditions imposed by a pass/fail grading system. I know he did exactly that his Freshman year and enjoyed it, and that he looks forward to the upcoming WSP. But that isn’t a lot of information.

A preliminary search then led me to Willipedia, which provided (in what I have come to know as the Willi style) a plethora of humorous (and opinionated) particulars. Some highlights:

*”The courses […] may seem silly and frivolous…”
*”You have a lot more free time…”
*”Get outside and play in the snow. If you don’t, you’re pathetic.”
*”…the main purpose of Winter Study is to fall in love.”

All…ahem…interesting comments, but I still didn’t have a clear idea of WSP.

So next, I paid a visit to the Williams website and the 09 WSP course catalog. There I saw classes ranging from “Knitting” to “Opera Workshop”, from “Boxing” to “Work of the Supreme Court”. While all enticing choices, they present such a wild variety as to leave me with even more questions. What exactly is Winter Study? How did it come about? What are it’s main objectives? How do we consider cutting something, unless we have a clear idea of it’s value to the students?

The fact that it’s in the dead of winter, indicates that doing away with it could save a lot of energy costs (as P’12 implies) while providing an extended break to students (and professors) at a time when the cold, gray days of a Berkshires winter might well be weighing on their psyches. Unless of course, there is very real value in taking a class where the emphasis is on the pleasure of learning, rather than achieving a perfect grade.

So, with all this in mind, I’d like to hear from you. What were your most memorable Winter Study experiences? And, is it a program the college should consider cutting? Or is it, in fact, an indispensable part of a Williams education?

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