I recently took my brother off to college. That process was strange for me – I’m used to being the one coming and going from far-away states, but now I had to help him move into an experience that I won’t be a large part of. I certianly understand a little more about how my parents felt leaving me in the Purple Valley. But I digress.

The Residential College system in place at his university is actually in place at a wide range of higher-ed institutions. Students are randomly assigned to a house/college, then completely indoctrinated during their first week such that almost no one applies for a transfer. Each house/college also has it’s own eating area and performance space, though students are free to eat anywhere on campus.

I was struck by how much the colleges were their own units, each with a different reputation and different crazy rituals, and there’s a lot to like in this sort of program. However, the University also has physical infrastructure much better suited than Williams’s to this sort of cohesion.

As the Neighborhood Review Committee continues its work this year, let’s remember that people approach this question and debate from a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds. Reading about the benefits of such a system is markedly different than seeing them in action.

What are some programs or ideas you’ve seen in place at other schools that Williams should shamelessly steal?

I was also amused when their President, during his remarks, asked all of the assembled parents to shake each others’ hands in congratulations for raising such wonderful children.

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