From the Record in January 2000:

Another “discussion starter” meeting held yesterday at the Log saw students, administrators, faculty and staff expressing strong opinions and raising difficult questions about housing issues at Williams.

Specific questions included whether the housing draw leads to stratification within the student body and whether house presidents and the co-op housing system adequately meet housing needs.

Director of Housing Tom McEvoy suggested that students’ names should not be displayed on the rooms they pick during the housing draw. McEvoy and others attested that the current process often allows a sports team or one gender or one type of student to dominate a house.

“One of the ironies of Williams housing is that the college takes great pains to create diversity in first year entries, but in the room draw that becomes less important, and I’m not sure why,” McEvoy said. “When students are taking facebooks to the housing draw, that is getting away from the spirit of what Williams is trying to do.”

Jackson Professor of Religion William Darrow described the housing process as “an open book, where everyone has the script,” the script being the displayed names at the housing draw that inform students of where different types of students choose to live.

This is among the first official mentions that I can find of a Williams official expressing concern about student self-segregation of housing. Even though, by all accounts, the same sort of thing was going on from 1995 through 2000, I can’t find anyone expressing concern. Indeed, here is a quote from McEvoy from May 1998 saying just the opposite.

McEvoy said there are no plans to change the housing process in the future, stating that a survey done by the Dean’s Office a few years ago showed satisfaction with the current system.

If there were no plans to change the system in May 1998, then how come major changes started in January 2000, just a year and a half later? Most probably answer is Morty Schapiro. Note that the same issue of the Record announced Morty’s appointment.

One could argue that this is evidence that Morty could not have had anything to do with the process, that if he was only selected in January 2000, he can’t have influenced McEvoy and Darrow that same month. Morty would not actually assume the presidency until July 1, 2000. But I can’t find any evidence that then-interim President Carl Vogt was at all concerned with the issue, so I don’t think that the impetus came from him. Moreover, Morty was certainly interviewing with the trustees, learning about the campus in the fall of 1999. So, he could easily have come up to speed on this issue and, perhaps in conjunction with conversations with the trustees, suggested that officials like McEvoy and Darrow start looking at the problem right away.

Anyway, this is just the sort of Williams history trivia that EphBlog thrives on. Perhaps it had nothing to do with Morty. Perhaps self-segregation got much worse, or more noticeable, between 1998 and 2000. Whose idea was it to discuss housing self-segregation at this meeting?

UPDATE: A draft version of this post appeared earlier by mistake.

UPDATE II: Exchanged e-mails with Darrow and McEvoy. Although it was all a decade ago, it sure seems that this had nothing to do with Morty. Instead, it represented a sort of bubbling up process based on concerns from lots of people.

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