Posted on behalf of regular commentator Parent ’12. Any formatting errors are my fault. — DK

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Week 2 of CGCL began with a focus on faculty. Now, it’s time to consider the other side of the desk, students. I’d like to believe that Dave asked me to start this discussion in order to expand or diversify participation, which fits nicely with the college’s promotion of itself.

Here, I write as a parent of a 1st year student. For this I’ll set the stage and use as a model one of the last classes I attended. It was a seminar a long time ago. My memories include spending time listening and talking, not always directly from the reading. So, for those who might sit quietly in the back of the classroom or are behind in their reading please comment. Here’s my view and questions to start a discussion

Self-Study on STUDENTS: “Since the last self study, we have increased the academic potential and diversity of entering classes, greatly enhanced student support services, and revamped the residential life system. These developments work together to enrich students’ educational opportunities in all aspects of their College experience.”

Thus begins the next accreditation section — In my take of the reading about students I was struck by how committed Williams was to diversity and integration. It should really permeate the ethos of the community. Does it?

Much of the student self study reads like advertising or self-promotion. So, before reading my comments, one caveat. Although I might sound glib, please don’t read it that way. I sincerely believe that the college under Pres. Shapiro has been genuinely trying to make this ethos viable.

Below, I focused on the self-report on Students, which was divided into 4 main sections and a summary statement, all highlighted in bold. For each section there’s a brief precis followed by questions to stimulate discussion. One could support comments with data from the tables on diversity and the common data set, which Dave provided.

Diversity Report Data Tables (pdf) and 2008 — 2009 Common Data Set (pdf).

I also found Additional Supplemental Reading and Tables on the Williams website:

On Diversity throughout the college, steps taken in 2004-06: http://www.williams.edu/admin/president/selfstudy/ss_steps_04-06.php

On changes in student distribution within residential housing, tables of various demographics, such as gender, white vs non-white, & athlete vs non-athtlete: http://www.williams.edu/admin/president/selfstudy/ss_student_housing.pdf

Admission and Financial Aid: We’re trying, working hard, & continuing to want to do more to have a student body with a multi-faceted demographic: multiple ethnicities, many from foreign lands, & all socio-economic classes. Plus all are extremely bright, capable, & talented, be it in the arts, sports, or any other passion-filled diversion. And, we put our money where our ideals are.. no more student loans.

Soliciting Observations from alumni, current students, and visitors, like parents & local citizens:

Was this your experience when applying & when you were on campus. Did you feel that admissions actively sought you because you lived outside the U.S. or for being athletic or non-white or poor? How multi-faceted did the campus really seem. Is it now?

Support of Student Learning: All these talented undergraduates need our support. They have different backgrounds & varying expectations. So, we’ll provide them with academic tutoring, better yet peer tutors, whom we’ll train, plus add sensitive oversight for quality control. With both a writing-intensive and quantitative distribution requirement we have to be certain the linear thinkers can explicate and the non-linear ones can quantify. So, we’ve brought in consultants and created a new position to strengthen our Writing Workshop and Quantitative Studies Program. Lest anyone get lost, all are housed together within the Academic Resource Center somewhere in Paresky.

To alumni, faculty, & current students: The report focused on what Williams has done primarily in 2005-06 to improve academic services.

Are these services as user friendly and beneficial as the report makes them sound? Is there any stigma associated with using them?

Student Services: We need to keep every one healthy and safe within a culturally sensitive environment. Plus, we’re not just committed to academics, but also to the community and experiential learning. To show not only our commitment, but also improve, we’ve re-organized management of these services and increased staffing.

To All: This section was divided into 4 sub-sections: Health Services, Campus Safety and Security, The Multicultural Center, & Community Service.

It should be read with an eye to what’s not said. For example, the health section is followed by campus safety, but there’s no mention about alcohol or recreational drugs use except to note that substance abuse education & counseling is available. What else is missing?

Residential Life: We can, yes we can… be elite without being elitist. Ages ago we got rid of fraternities. We renamed their houses. Then, we had houses with chefs. There was Odd Quad. Now, we have neighborhoods, 4 microcosms of the mini-world of Williams.

Compromise for Community:

Assume neighborhoods a given, how could the system be improved? Where is faculty involvement or connection to a neighborhood?

What Now: The report ends with a summary & projection for the future.

What recommendations would you make to whomever follows Morty? And, related to last week’s reading, how has your experience at Williams affected your current life?

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