A week from now, Claiming Williams will be a failure because most students will not go to any events. And those that bother to waste time on a buffoon like Tim Wise will be precisely those who already agree with him. The faculty will judge the event a failure, and decline to schedule it for more than another year or two. Five years from now, only the Eph-trivia experts among us will remember Claiming Williams.

None of this is to meant to disparagement the hard work of the Claiming Williams Steering Committee. No doubt they spent many hours planning events, selecting speakers, and brainstorming ideas. Their posters (featuring testimony from specific Ephs) are excellent. They have a blog of sorts. Their public service announcement contest is clever and original. But, all the good intentions in the world will not rescue an event which does not either a) Focus on community building, like Mountain Day or b) Represent the full spectrum of Eph opinion on “privilege.”

But let me by constructive for a change! Instead of (accurately) predicting failure, why don’t I tell the Claiming Williams Steering Committee how they might make their event more successful? I love a challenge!

1) Invite a Williams singing/dancing group to perform at the start of each speaker. Everyone loves Williams students when they sing and dance, especially all their friends and entry mates. Scheduling the Spring Streeters for two songs at the start of Tim Wise’s presentation at 2:15 would double attendance. If you want Ephs to come to your event, then you need to present (at least some) things they want to see. With luck, some who came for the Spring Streeters would stay and learn something. You really think that many students are going to show up for a 9:30 AM speech without, say, an NBC performance to entice them? Think again.

Dorothy Allison and Peter Roby (both scheduled for 9:30) look like very interesting and accomplished people. But Williams students will be treating the previous night like a Friday. Party, party! How many students are up by 9:30 on a Saturday morning?

2) Change the format to involve a fair cross section of the Williams community, especially current students. Consider the 1:00 lecture by Peggy McIntosh. This could be interesting and McIntosh’s essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” is worth a read. But, still! Williams students are busy and even though this event might be worth their time, you may have trouble convincing them of that.

So, instead of just having McIntosh give her usual speech, have her give a 15 minute version (the concept of “white privilege” is not overly complex) and then have her interact with a panel of Williams students. (I realize that you have scheduled a discussion forum for afterward, but that is not the way to organize things.) And the good news is that there is a ready-made panel of students discussing similar issues at WSO right now! (Read the whole thread. Be impressed with the intelligence of Williams students, but also be surprised at the diversity of viewpoints they express with regard to “respect” on campus.)

A panel of students would help to generate attendance. Everyone likes to support their friends. Select a few JAs and you can count on many/most of their freshmen coming out. Also, a panel with Williams students who honestly disagree about “respect” will be much more interesting and educational.

3) Cut the number of forums. We love us some Bill Darrow here at EphBlog, but do you really think that more than a handful of students will troop all the way out to Griffin 3 at 2:15 to discuss ““Can You Hear Me Now?” Feeling Invisible at Williams”? No. That’s not going to happen. Better to schedule fewer events and concentrate your energies. (That said, if a student told me that she had only 60 minutes to spend on Claiming Williams, my advice would be to attend Darrow’s forum. Any discussion led by him will be high quality.)

I don’t expect Claiming Williams to follow any of this advice. Do readers have better suggestions?

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