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Claiming Williams is two weeks from today. Comments:

1) The fundamental problem with Claiming Williams (see our previous discussion) is that it has two goals: “examining privilege” and “building community.” Both are interesting and worthwhile. But, no matter how intelligent and hard-working the Ephs in charge of the process might be, it is impossible to accomplish both these goals in a single event or day of events. One could put on an interesting series of speakers/discussions on “privilege,” as they have done. You could design an event, like Mountain Day, which builds community. Yet you can’t do both at the same time. Any attempt to do so is doomed to failure because the more that you focus on a specific political point of view, the more you turn off members of the community that either disagree with you or just find politics boring.

2) Note how the initial schedule differs from the current one (pdf). What happened here?

11:00 am – 12:00pm: Community Forums, Including:

Forum on Dorothy Allison
Forum on Peter Roby
Affirmative Action (McPartland)
Classroom Culture (Swann)
Village Beautiful? (Sporbert)
Documentary Film on Claiming Williams (Morron)

The community forum on affirmative action has vanished. What’s up with that? Now, of course, my right wing friends would be quick to shout “Censorship!” But I suspect that this is more likely a scheduling conflict. Perhaps Professor McPartland had another obligation? If so, I am sure that the Claiming Williams committee would be happy to reinstate the event if they could find another Eph to run the forum. And, good news! I am free that day . . .

What? You think that the Claiming Williams committee has no interest in having a forum on affirmative action, that they have no interest in “examining” that particular “privilege?” Shame on you, cynical reader!

3) Who is Tim Wise?

One sided hucksterism and incoherent economics. A charming combination! Guaranteed to build community on any college campus. Not enough Tim Wise for you? Here is another hour.

As always, I am happy for the College to bring speakers like Wise to campus. (All I ask is that they bring speakers on the other side as well.) But, if all we are doing is having a bunch of speakers, then it is hardly necessary to cancel classes.

4) The Claiming Williams steering committee writes:

The Claiming Williams steering committee [Bill Darrow, Ed Epping, Natalie Friedman, Ruth Harrison, Narae Park, Wendy Raymond, Claire Schwartz, Dae Selcer, Harry Sheehy, Stefanie Solum, Rick Spalding, Martha Tetrault, and Shayla Williams] invites you to be a part of this ongoing dialogue. If you would like to post an event, share an article, start a discussion, or otherwise participate in the process of claiming Williams, please write to us. We look forward to spreading the word.

I have e-mailed them and asked for permission to “start a discussion” about my idea to extend First Days. What do you think they will say?

5) To be constructive, how would I generate as much attendance for these events as possible? How do you convince people (who do not already agree with him) to waste spend an hour with Tim Wise? First, pray for bad weather. Second, focus in the freshmen. It is much harder to get upper classmen to go to events they have no initial interest in. Third, get to the freshmen through their JAs and get to the JAs through Dean Dave Johnson. If universally-beloved Dean Dave reaches out to his JAs and pleads with them to come (and those JAs then plead with their freshmen), then you might be able to produce a couple hundred students at some of these events. Whether having 10% of the student body participate in Claiming Williams is a stunning triumph or abject failure depends on your point of view.

6) What say our readers, especially among current students? Which events, if any, do you plan on attending?

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