There is a forum tonight on the Neighborhood Review Commitee’s (NRC) Interim Report (pdf). I hope that many students come and that they ask a lot of tough questions. Neighborhood Housing has failed. Williams deserves better. (See here for my proposal with a new slogan — “Community by Class Year” — and further details. Contact me if you are interested in working on this idea or, even better, taking it over and running with it.)

See below for the sorts of trouble-making questions that I would like to see asked. (And I hope that someone takes, and publishes, thorough notes, just as Joe Shoer ’06 (here) and Amarnath Santhanam ’07 (here) did 4 years ago. Future students will thank you!)

1) Former CUL Chair Professor Will Dudley cited the fact that only 13% of Williams seniors in 2004 were “very satisfied” with the quality of social life as compared to 25% in 1999 (during the last year of complete free agency). This data comes from the annual COFHE survey. (Williams can release its own data from this survey but not the results from other schools.) The NRC also used COFHE data. Why won’t the College allow students to look at the COFHE data for Williams? The time series of CFHE data over the last 15 years would be extremely informative. Why should we believe anything that the Administration tells us if it won’t show us the underlying data?

2) Professor Eiko Maruko Siniawer and Doug Schiazza are the only two members of the NRC who played substantial roles in the creation of Neighborhood Housing. At the time, many students/alumni expressed concern with the process that the CUL was using, not just with the outcome that it reached. (Classic examples here, here and here.) Now that we see that Neighborhoods have failed to do anything useful (except prevent all the African American students and helmet-heads from living together), what lessons have Siniawer and Schiazza learned about process? What should the 2005 CUL have done differently?

[The right answer to that question is that the CUL (or, more appropriately, Morty) should have a) Been more open and transparent in their deliberations and use of data and b) Modelled the process more on the Angevine Committee (which eliminated fraternities at Williams) by including the all points of view in the discussions as well as alumni. (The Angevine Committee included fans of fraternities among its members. I do not think that the 2005 CUL had anyone who could fairly be described as a fan of free agency.)]

3) It seems like recent alumni would have a lot to add to this discussion. Members of the class of 2007 through 2009 experienced a campus with both free agency and Neighborhoods. Why does the College make it impossible for them to a) Read the Appendices of the Report and b) Offer comments to the NRC? (See the discussion in this thread for details. Short version: If you go to this page from campus, you see the Appendices and a comment form. If you visit from outside campus (and you don’t set up a proxy using your Williams unix id), you only see the main Report.)

PS. Kudos to the College Council for its involvement and to the NRC (and CUL) members for taking the time to participate.

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