See below for some of the key documents/statements associated with the Hardy House takeover. What others am I missing? (I am gathering reading material for our upcoming January seminar. Suggestions welcome!)


Record: “Students mobilize in Hardy for LGBTQ support”

By Laura Corona – News Editor

Published December 9, 2009

In a flood of all-campus e-mails and WSO posts, members of the campus community have learned over the last week of the vandalism and homophobic bias incident that took place in Mission over Thanksgiving break. Since the incident, members of the student body have occupied Hardy House in an act designed to draw attention and pressure the administration to give greater recognition to issues surrounding homophobia and institutional support on campus.

Entry vandalism

The campus learned of the vandalism incident upon receiving Dean Merrill’s campus-wide e-mail on Nov. 30, which reported that the word “Fags” had been written on the common room wall of a first-year entry in Mission, Mills-Dennett 1, between 10:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28.

According to Jean Thorndike, director of Campus Safety and Security, she had been notified of the incident earlier that morning by Queer Life Coordinator (QLC) Justin Adkins, who had learned about the vandalism from Johannes Wilson ’11, co-chair of the Queer Student Union (QSU). “I found out about the incident a day after it occurred from a Junior Advisor (JA) friend, who showed me an e-mail sent to the JA listserv by the JA whose entry was vandalized,” Wilson said. Wilson asked Adkins what the response should be, and Adkins notified the administration.

Security reported that in addition to the presence of the offensive word, paint had been splattered in the entry’s common room and penises had been drawn on bathroom doors. “This was another instance of an entry being vandalized, and it’s part of a bigger problem on campus with common spaces,” said Ifiok Inyang ’11, a JA in MD1. “For most people, the entry common room is one of the most revered common spaces you’ll have in your four years. For a person to come in with intentions of destruction while you’re on break is terrible.”

The ensuing investigation into the incident has yielded few leads thus far. Thorndike said that 40 students had used their ID cards to swipe into Mission during the hours in question on Nov. 28, and that members of Security are following up with those students. “The investigation will remain open and active,” Thorndike said. “We plan to talk to all the students and follow up with any leads. We have to wait and see if we get any information from them or from the tip hotline.” Thorndike added that the anonymous tip line can be accessed through the Security Web site.

The response

While the investigation into the incident by Security was beginning, Merrill informed the campus in her e-mail that members of the administration were arranging to meet with LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) students to determine how to move forward.

At a lunch meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 1, members of the QSU and members of the administration began addressing the incident. “The discussion was a chance to talk about what happened, how people felt, what their sense was of the administration’s response with the e-mail,” Merrill said. “A first thought on the part of the administration was that we wanted to be transparent about what happened. We also wanted to try to jump right into discussion as quickly as possible.”

In a series of meetings following the lunch with the administration, members of the QSU began formulating their response. “The incident elicited a number of responses, such as anger and frustration,” said Mike Semensi ’12, QSU treasurer. “We met to discuss this and what we wanted our demands to be, what we wanted the administration to do to support people struggling with these issues.”

The QSU also joined forces with the Women’s Center, who offered support and collaboration. “There are already a lot of existing overlaps on our respective boards and in our group of friends,” said Tracey Vitchers ’10, co-chair of the Women’s Center. “We wanted to support them. Had this been a sexist incident instead of a homophobic incident, we would have wanted their support as well.”

Out of the lengthy discussions came both a “List of Demands” and a letter to the College community announcing their decision to “re-conceptualize the underused space at Hardy House” into the “Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.” At an open forum organized by College Council (CC) on Wednesday night, members of the QSU and the Women’s Center unveiled their response, and proceeded to Hardy House. Since that time, members of both groups have been at Hardy House around the clock.

“We realized that for the administration to look at these concerns, we needed visible action, so we’re ‘squatting,’” Semensi said. “It’s not really a sit-in, not an occupation. Squatting is homeless people living in a space that isn’t used, and that’s what we’re doing. This is already in many ways the house the QSU and the Women’s Center use, so we want recognition that there needs to be a visible space addressing these concerns.”

A back-and-forth conversation between the QSU and Women’s Center and the administration has led to consideration of the list of demands put forth, which, aside from the call for a Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, also includes a series of other measures designed to recognize LGBTQ issues on campus. The list includes the creation of a full-time QLC position to direct the Gender and Sexuality Resources Center, the implementation of comprehensive LGBTQ training for JAs, the creation of gender neutral housing to allow upperclassmen to choose roommates regardless of their sex and the hiring of a full-time Queer Studies professor.

In an additional all-campus e-mail, Interim President Wagner announced the position of the administration, saying, “We support their efforts to end at Williams all behaviors aimed at intimidating or targeting people because of their gender, sexual identity or gender expression and to build a community that welcomes and supports all.”

“All of the ideas put forth by the QSU address how we can try to eliminate that type of biased behavior specifically and also how we can create an environment where all feel welcome in this community,” Merrill said. She acknowledged, though, that this type of proposal must go through the institutional channels of consideration, which is made more difficult due to financial constraints. “There is an understanding that we’re in a difficult budgetary situation, but we feel we should move forward and see where these ideas take us,” Merrill said, noting that the administration is willing to continue discussions.

Incoming President Adam Falk received the letter drafted by the QSU and the Women’s Center, and responded by offering both sympathy and support. “I agree completely that, especially in the aftermath of this incident, students and administration must come together around the critical purpose of eliminating from the Williams campus homophobia and other forms of discrimination against the many varieties of sexual expression,” he wrote, adding that he looks forward to participating in ongoing conversation when he arrives on campus in April.

Squatting at Hardy

In claiming Hardy House as the current site for the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, members of the QSU and the Women’s Center have turned the building into their center of operations, moving Adkins’ office from Jenness House to Hardy. “This is base camp, ground zero for what we’re trying to do,” Vitchers said. “Hardy is a space we’ve already been designated, but it has been underutilized up until this point.” At Hardy, students, faculty, administrators and staff members wander in and out, stopping to chat. “This is the most open sit-in ever,” said Gabrielle Joffe ’11.

The goal of “the most open sit-in ever” is in part to advance the College’s goal of creating a welcoming and supportive community. “Williams does a great job of attracting diverse students, but could do a better job of addressing their needs,” Semensi said. “There are students who face homophobia. These issues aren’t discussed openly and regularly, so there are those who might not know there are issues that exist. There are those who don’t feel comfortable here, who face bias, and that’s not okay.”

As Semensi articulated, the groups felt the need for visible action. Vitchers agreed that the groups’ response has been directed towards inspiring institutional change. “We want to pressure the administration to provide students with what we’re asking for,” she said. “With it being the end of the semester, it’s hard to know how things will play out, but the response from faculty and staff has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive.”

In creating a Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, the two groups hope to create a place that offers a resource and support for “the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and straight populations” at the College, the groups said. Adkins specified that what the students are asking for is not simply a building for themselves, but for something that can provide resources to everyone on campus. “Everyone has a sexual identity and everyone has a gender identity,” Adkins said. “Often when we say ‘gender,’ it’s taken to mean women, and when we say sexual identity, it’s taken to mean those who aren’t heterosexual, but what the students are doing is something that can serve the whole community, not just these smaller groups.”

For the QSU and the Women’s Center, one of the most pressing issues is that of space allocation in Morley Circle, where four buildings – Siskind, Jenness, Rice and Hardy – have been allocated to the groups that fall under the purview of the Multicultural Center. Vitchers said that the QSU and Women’s Center are working on a proposal to have all the Minority Coalition groups write up their space needs, so that space allocation can be rethought.

Meanwhile, the efforts are already being felt by some on campus. “Not only does this building feel like a home now more than it ever has, but I feel more at home on this campus than I ever have before,” said Chelsea Luttrell ’11, referring to the occupying of Hardy House.

Student body speaks up

The discussion surrounding the actions of the QSU and the Women’s Center has been characterized by strong divergent opinions, which, to many members of those two groups, has been helpful in guiding them to address concerns as they arise.

“WSO has allowed students to pose questions and concerns that we’ve looked at,” Vitchers said. “It’s brought other people to these events. We want to create discussion and debate, because then people come and talk – and people have left with a positive attitude.” Vitchers explained that the groups had hosted an open forum on Thursday night, which various students attended to voice concerns. According to Vitchers, the discussion went well and garnered the movement additional support.

According to Fiona Wilkes ’12, the discussions have value merely in getting attention. “The fact that so many people are responding to threads, reading threads – whether or not they’re in support of what we’re doing, the fact that people are talking about it and thinking about it, is great,” she said.

Wilson agreed that the discussions are productive. “We are all trying to take everyone’s criticisms and suggestions to heart as we move forward, and this whole situation has taught me a lot about how the QSU is perceived on campus,” he said. “Whatever results from our actions, the QSU board will certainly move forward with a highly enriched perspective.”

Indeed, not all students are in support of the Hardy House occupation, as some have spoken out against the methods of the QSU and Women’s Center, and others have challenged the idea that there is a problem to be addressed.
Some have voiced opinions that the QSU’s and Women’s Center’s response was an overreaction. Jordan Freking ’12 called the incident of vandalism noteworthy, but added, “I don’t think it deserves as much attention as it is getting,” noting in part that he believes that “the way resource centers are being utilized is highly ineffective in combating biases that exist on this campus, and they don’t even begin to have any positive, real-world consequences.”

Others, while questioning the movement, have become convinced that it may ultimately be beneficial. “Although I don’t necessarily approve of the tactics that the QSU has engaged in to achieve its ends, I know that what they are doing will be a good thing for Williams in the long run,” said Christopher Hikel ’13, who noted that the QSU has clarified some of its original statements and reached out to a “broader constituency” as the week has progressed.

Nonetheless, the QSU and the Women’s Center have gained significant student support. CC co-presidents Mike Tcheyan ’10 and Lizzy Brickley ’10 invited the student body to an open forum on Wednesday to give students a place to voice opinions, as well as to help CC learn how to move forward.

According to the co-presidents, today’s CC meeting will be dedicated to a discussion with QSU and Women’s Center members so that CC can vote on measures to support when approaching the administration. “It’s clear that everyone has the same goals in mind, but it’s difficult to contend with budget restrictions,” Tcheyan said. “CC and the students can help put pressure on the administration to align themselves with concrete proposals and not just the vision at large.”

Looking back, moving forward

That there have been concrete actions taken and steps proposed has been seen as a significant step by many on campus. Katie Kent ’88, professor of English and women’s and gender studies, recalled her own experiences in a first-year entry in which homophobia was overt and threatening. “[Now,] I don’t think members of an entry would make jokes about killing the member of the now-QSU who was coming to give an entry talk,” she said.

Kent noted that activism and awareness around these issues has “waxed and waned” over the years, but noted that, “I don’t know of any action of the magnitude of this one, in terms of the continuous occupation of a building and issuing a set of demands.”

For some, the incident that sparked the events of the last week was reminiscent of the events leading up to Stand With Us two years ago. “In one respect, this incident is similar to the Willy E incident in that there was a slur used that is unacceptable on this campus, targets a group of people and results in students feeling upset and demeaned,” Merrill said. “These are moments in which we can reflect on what we’re doing as an institution. At the same time, we must understand these incidents as different in terms of context.”

Members of the QSU and Women’s Center noted that they are taking a different path – one that focuses on the institution rather than the type of discussion created by Claiming Williams Day. “It’s great that there’s a day that can address these issues, but I’m proud that the students are moving beyond just one day,” Adkins said. “Sometimes there’s a big response that happens immediately, but then it fizzles away. I’m proud that the students aren’t just doing one big thing, but rather asking for institutional change.”

“This is a campus culture problem, but by the administration providing this service, the institutional changes will trickle down into community change,” Vitchers said. “Days like Claiming Williams aren’t mandatory. It allows students who don’t want to go to not have to go, so it can be preaching to the choir.”

Semensi mentioned that while their movement is taking a different approach than Claiming Williams, Wendy Raymond, associate dean for institutional diversity and professor of biology, came forward to ask on behalf of the Claiming Williams Steering Committee what they could do to help and demonstrate alliance.

Raymond said that the mission of Claiming Williams “reveals strong interconnections” between the day’s goals and the actions of the QSU and the Women’s Center. “We hope that people will be curious to learn more about how they can develop as allies to those who feel they cannot ‘claim’ Williams, and we hope that Claiming Williams events will help encourage learning,” she said.

Brickley noted that while institutional change may make a difference, there is still a role to be played by individual students. “Too often campus can be too passive and non-confrontational when discriminatory behavior occurs,” she said. “People can step out of their comfort zones and speak up against the disrespectful actions of their peers.”

While members of the QSU and Women’s Center acknowledged that winter break will necessarily slow-down their efforts, they plan on continuing to hold the administration accountable, Wilson said. “We’ve started to get even more specific with the proposals we have made to the administration, and winter break will give us more time to do research, refine our actions and reflect on what has happened so far, what has been said and how we should move forward,” he added.

For Semensi, there is an additional message to take away from the last week: one of opportunity. “Williams is seen as largely apathetic to social disobedience and to change, which is partially due to how many other things people are doing,” he said. “I think it’s great that if you care enough and build a strong enough base, you can get things done here.”

QSU Open Letter:

To the Williams Community,

The recent homophobic incident on campus has brought to light both historical and current issues regarding gender and sexuality at Williams College. Currently there is no designated space for a Gender and Sexuality Resource Center to address these issues. We students believe that this is a necessary addition to the network of student resources at the College. The presence of such a Center would provide students with a fixed place to go for support such as the counsel of other peers, the Queer Life Coordinator, printed information, or sexual health resources. The space would be utilized by currently existing groups such as the Women’s Center, the Queer Student Union, Anything But Str8 in Athletics, and other groups invested in these issues. The establishment of this center would create a more permanent space in which these groups could work with the College administration (including the Deans’ Office, the Office of Campus Life, the Admissions Office, the Career Planning Center, the President’s Office and the Health Center).

Because of the need for this Center we have decided to re-conceptualize the underused space at Hardy House into a place that would actively promote discussions of and resources for gender and sexuality at Williams. Moreover, we have established the following list of issues that need to be seriously discussed and implemented immediately: the establishment of a Full Time Queer Life Coordinator Position (as the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center Director); a more comprehensive LGBTQ/Women’s Issues oriented training for Junior Advisors; the availability of Gender Neutral Housing; the establishment of more Queer and Sexuality Studies courses and/or the appointment of a professor with the knowledge and ability to teach Queer and Sexuality Studies oriented courses within Women’s and Gender Studies.

As of 9 PM this evening, December 2nd, 2009, Williams students will be turning Hardy House into the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. Until the demands put forth by the Queer Student Union are met, students will be working round the clock to establish this space and provide resources to the community at large.

Anyone interested in participating in the claiming of Hardy House as the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center or establishing other such resources at Williams is invited to join the Queer Student Union, the Women’s Center and their supporters and allies in this endeavor.

Feel free to utilize this safe space or stop by to say hello both now and in the future.

Anyone with additional comments or questions, please contact Tracey Vitchers (10tev) or Mike Semensi (ms2).

Respectfully,
The Queer Student Union and Allies

QSU Demands:

Improving Queer Life at Williams: A List of Demands
December 2, 2009

Full Time Queer Life Coordinator Position (as the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center Director)
Implementation by Spring semester 2010 for academic year 2010-2011

The Queer Life Coordinator (QLC) is currently a part-time position. The responsibilities of this position include coordinating LGBT programming at Williams, acting as a resource for students, faculty and staff in regards to queer issues on campus, and engaging students in activism. Justin Adkins, the current QLC, has been an invaluable resource to the Williams community; countless students have and continue to go to Justin to discuss gender and sexuality issues. Many students would not be here at Williams if it were not for Justin and his work. While Justin tirelessly serves the Queer Student Union and the Anything but Straight in Athletics group as well as every queer or questioning member of this community, the College is still not willing to grant him a full-time position. As Williams LGBT students continue to face rampant homophobia and transphobia on campus, while attempting to balance their own studies, social lives and athletic pursuits with their sexuality, a full-time QLC position must be recognized as a basic need, not a luxurious want. We, the members of the LGBT community, demand that the Queer Life Coordinator be made a full time position within the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.

Comprehensive LGBT Junior Advisor Training
Implementation by Spring semester 2010

The entry system is by far in a way the most unique feature of first year life at Williams. JA’s are suppose to foster an environment that is welcoming and friendly for all students, no matter their background. While JA’s undergo relatively formal diversity training, there is NO formal LGBT sensitivity training. Current JA and an out gay male Jack Wadden remembered being extremely frustrated with this fact. The only conversations the training committee had about quelling the rampant homophobia that exists at Williams or educating freshmen students about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues, were brought up by Jack. Williams should be embarrassed. Although JA’s receive zero compensation, they wholly represent the college and its goals for an all-inclusive, community-oriented campus. In that sense, not properly training them is an affirmation of the homophobic and transphobic culture of Williams. The LGBT community demands that JA’s receive proper LGBT sensitivity training as well as extensive information about LGBT resources on campus. We, the members of the LGBT community, demand that a LGBT education be a part of Junior Advisor training.

Gender Neutral Housing
Implementation by Spring semester 2010 for academic year 2010-2011

The Williams College Mission Statement lists among its core values “welcoming and supporting in the College community people from all segments of our increasingly diverse society.” We believe that gender-neutral housing is a natural extension of this goal. The current housing system implicitly makes assumptions about the sexual orientations and gender identities of Williams students. A gender-neutral housing plan, on the other hand, will help to achieve the College’s goal of inclusiveness and fairness by creating a more comfortable environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex students, and by allowing all students more freedom in their housing choices.

This plan affects upperclassmen by allowing them to choose roommates regardless of their sex. All residential houses on campus will offer gender-neutral housing, thus allowing all those who want to participate to do so. Students who choose to take advantage of the gender-neutral option will participate in the same neighborhood draw as other students with no priority given. The current gender caps placed on houses would continue to maintain a sense of balance among the students. Questions will not be asked about students’ reasons for living together. We feel that this is important to achieving the goal of inclusion and fairness in housing; same-sex roommates are not assumed to be couples, and the same should be true for opposite-sex roommates.

For the pilot program, freshmen would still be assigned same-sex roommates. However, first-year residence halls would not be arranged based on the sex of the room occupants; hallways and floors would be mixed in half of the entries. This would protect transgender and intersex students from the uncomfortable possibility of being misrepresented to their entrymates by their room location, as well as students transitioning to co-education living arrangements. After one year, however, the gender-neutral option should be considered for extension to first years as well. If this happens, the housing forms (and the Williams Common Application Supplement by extension) must be updated so that students can indicate whether they have a preference for a male or female roommate, or no preference at all regarding sex. Additionally the forms must clearly provide students with information about how to obtain confidential support for transgender- or intersex- related accommodation needs. We, the members of the LGBT community, demand that a gender neutral housing option be available for residential living.

Peer colleges and universities with gender neutral housing: Bard College, Bennington College, Brown University, Colorado College, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Grinnell College, Hampshire College, Harvard University, Haverford College, Oberlin College, Skidmore College, Stanford University, Swarthmore College, and Wesleyan University.

Gender and Sexuality Resource Center
Already Implemented/Implemented immediately

A Gender and Sexuality Resource Center is a very needed addition to the network of student resources at Williams College. The presence of such a center would provide students with a fixed place to go for support such as the counsel of other peers, the Queer Life Coordinator, printed information, or sexual health resources. There is no space like this that exists yet at Williams.
Through research and discussion about resource centers at similar colleges such as Bowdoin and Hampshire College, we have developed the following goals for the establishment of such a center at Williams College:
The Gender and Sexuality Center would provide support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and straight populations at Williams. It would be dedicated to creating a safe space for these students as well as educating the campus community about sexuality and gender identity. This space would be utilized by currently existing groups such as the Women’s Center, the Queer Student Union, Anything But Str8 in Athletics, and other groups invested these issues. The establishment of this center would create a more permanent space in which these groups could work with the college administration (including the Deans’ Office, the Office of Residential Life, the Admissions Office, the Career Planning Center, the President’s Office and the Health Center).

Hardy House would serve as a safe space in which to express and learn about gender and sexuality. Hardy House would be home to a library of queer-related books, movies, and CDs available to all students, faculty and staff as well as an archive of materials related to the history of LGBTQ issues at Williams. The current computer lab would be maintained as a study space in which discussion would be fostered. Aforementioned student groups would use Hardy House as a claimable space in which to meet, discuss, and affect programming. This would be the most appropriate space for the office of the Queer Life Coordinator. This house would also serve as space in which students could hang out and organize social activities such as dinners, movie screenings, etc.

The presence of such a center would give this large part of the Williams community a sense of representation that it currently does not have. It would provide stability to the aforementioned programs so that they could continue to meet a variety of social, cultural, educational, and community-building interests on campus. We, the members of the LGBT community, demand a Gender and Sexuality Resource.

Full Time Queer Studies Professor
Implementation by Spring semester 2011

From Johannes Wilson ’11, Queer Student Union Co-Chair:
As a student who is personally, politically, socially, and intellectually dedicated to issues of gender and especially sexuality, I feel as though Williams has not done enough to support my pursuit of these issues. The Women’s and Gender Studies department is wonderful and has intellectually stimulated me more than I ever would have imagined. I decided to become a Women’s and Gender Studies major during the spring semester of my first year here. Several courses address the issue of sexuality, but sexuality is never the main focus of any class I have taken so far. In addition, the department’s name, Women’s and Gender Studies, does not make any reference to sexuality or Queer Studies. There is only one course that can even be considered Queer Studies, which is being offered next spring. This course, Introduction to Sexuality Studies, has been overenrolled, and it is just one of the many Women’s and Gender Studies courses that several students have expressed strong interest in, and not just queer-identified students. Several students take Women’s and Gender Studies courses, and many of them also express a desire for more courses that deal with sexuality and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identities.

Having a Queer Studies program demonstrates the breadth of a college’s commitment to serving its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identified students, showing that it treats the experiences, histories, contemporary issues, and intellectual thought of LGBTQ individuals as serious, legitimate academic work. Taking Queer Studies at Williams can enrich a queer-identified student’s experience at this college and in their life outside of and beyond Williams.

In addition, having a Queer Studies program is a visible demonstration of the college’s commitment to queer-identified students, staff, and faculty, improving perceptions of the queer climate at Williams not just to present members of the Williams community, but also prospective students and employees of the College. The presence of a Queer Studies program, in addition to the other institutional changes we are proposing, will contribute to a greater integration of queer-identified issues and individuals within the Williams community as a whole, fostering true acceptance and inclusiveness while decreasing the acceptability of homophobia, transphobia, and sexism on campus. We need more faculty who are qualified to teach Queer Studies courses if we are to realize the benefits of having a Queer Studies program at Williams.
Current discussion within the Women’s and Gender Studies Department suggest that hiring a full time professor with a queer studies focus would allow the department to offer more LGBT oriented classes. We, the members of the LGBT community, demand a professor with a queer studies focus to allow more LGBT oriented classes.
Colleges that have “Sexuality Studies,” “LGBTQ Studies” or “Queer Studies:”

-Brown University: Gender and Sexuality Studies Dept. (concentration)
-Dartmouth College: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies (no major or minor)
-Bowdoin College: Gay and Lesbian Studies program (minor)
-Wesleyan University: Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (major)
-Swarthmore College: Gender and Sexuality Studies (major and minor)
-Smith College: Study of Women and Gender (major and minor) with Queer Studies concentration
-Wellesley College: Women’s and Gender Studies (major) with Sexualities Concentration and Intersectionalities: Race, Class, Genders, and Sexualities Concentration
-Hampshire College: Queer Studies (area of study)

Letter from incoming President Falk:

Dear Tracey and Michael,

Thank you for including me in the conversation about this terrible incident and
the campus’s response to it. The vandalism was a hateful and horrible thing,
and I am so sorry that the students in the entry, as well as the entire campus,
have had to endure it. To say that such behavior is unacceptable is simply to
scratch the surface of the outrage that I feel.

I agree completely that, especially in the aftermath of this incident, students
and administration must come together around the critical purpose of
eliminating from the Williams campus homophobia and other forms of
discrimination against the many varieties of sexual expression. As it is with all
expressions of bigotry, this is neither an easy task nor a quick one. I
understand that you have started a productive conversation with the current
College leadership about steps that could be taken in pursuit of this goal. I
support that process fully, and look forward to becoming engaged in the dialog
myself when I arrive on campus in April.

For now, let me just say again how appalled I am at what happened in Mills-
Dennett 1 last weekend. I know that this is hardly representative of the views,
or behavior, of the marvelous Williams student body. But as true as that may
be, it does not diminish the importance of taking this opportunity to
acknowledge and address the very real homophobia that does exist on campus.
And to do so now.

I look forward to meeting you and your colleagues in the spring, hopefully
under somewhat happier circumstances.

With my best regards,
Adam Falk

Adam F. Falk
President-elect
Williams College
Adam.F.Falk@williams.edu

College Council statement.

Dear Students,

At last night’s College Council meeting, CC unanimously voted to approve the following resolution in support of the demands put forth by the Queer Student Union and the Women’s Center.

WHEREAS recent homophobic events have catalyzed student groups (i.e. QSU and Women’s Center) to make demands for improvement in institutional programming and support for gender and sexuality at Williams College

LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Williams College Council:

1. Supports an evaluation and redistribution of space within the houses of Morley Circle, with the aid of the Minority Coalition and the Multicultural Center, to include a Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.

2. Recommends that Williams College hire a full-time Assistant Director of the Multicultural Center in Charge of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.

3. Advocates for an updated JA and Baxter Fellow Training to include more comprehensive LGBTQ and Gender peer-advising and guidance.

4. Urges the College to increase the Queer Studies course offerings in the WGST department.

5. Supports the CUL Proposal for Gender Neutral Housing, stating “that upperclass students should be able to choose to live in a double with another student regardless of gender, if both directly-affected students agree to this. Upperclass housing placements (conducted by the College) into doubles would continue to be done based upon gender, unless requested otherwise by both directly-affected students. (Note: During room draws, gender caps in houses
would apply as usual.)”

As representatives of the student body, College Council is proud to present this document to the Williams College administrators, faculty, staff, and students in order to help promote the implementation of these goals. Also, please find attached a letter from the QSU and Women’s Center to the Williams Community with more information regarding the movement as it continues to take shape.

Good luck with finals. Have a safe and happy winter break!!

Sincerely,

Lizzy Brickley and Mike Tcheyan
College Council Co-Presidents

Record editorial: “Taking a hard line in Hardy”

The student sit-in at Hardy House, along with the list of demands to end institutional biases against and increase formal support for queer students, has been a remarkable example of activism over the past week. Welcoming critique and maintaining an attitude of openness, the Queer Student Union (QSU), Women’s Center and those additionally involved have seized the opportunity to make demands of an administration that publicly decries instances of homophobia such as the Mills-Dennett 1 common room vandalism, but has not yet done all it can institutionally to demonstrate support for queer students, “out” or not.

The list of demands, if realized, would begin to make Williams a place as institutionally interested in students of queer sexual and gender identity as it is in racially and geographically diverse students. It is our hope that the campus will extend its support to the movement for change being rallied in Hardy House by combating homophobia on individual, interpersonal levels, and that the College will answer the call to end institutional heteronormativity by prioritizing the demands presented over the past week. Such a response from the administration would go far in recognizing the subtle ways that institutional structures can perpetuate homophobia and that simply saying you support a community sometimes just isn’t enough.

The students organizing the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center have not planted themselves in a central campus location and are in general not calling upon the entire student body to mobilize against the attitudes that produced the slander on the MD-1 common room wall. Not attempting to engage with the “culture of hate” or other such volatile epithets used during the Stand With Us movement in spring 2008, the QSU and Women’s Center have effectively begun their revolution without demonizing populations on campus.

The movement is to be commended for refraining from the “with us or against us” mentality that alienated many students from Stand With Us. That said, we hope that students take the opportunity to consider the small, tangible ways they can contribute to making campus a safer, more supportive place for their queer peers: for instance, piping up when a friend uses the word “gay” derogatorily in casual conversation.

The current movement is also constructive by being specific in its demands; calling for structural changes from the administration, the QSU and Women’s Center are channeling their efforts in a grounded and effective way. Their requests are aimed at ending institutional policies and absences that are biased against queer students, aspiring to foster support and safety. They have focused on making change by concretely asking for it, largely leaving the elliptical, frustrating nitpicking to discussants on WSO.

We believe that their demands are extremely important and that the administration should not hesitate to implement those that are of little or no cost to the College as soon as possible. Those that require more significant funding, the College should willingly negotiate with the mind that these changes are critical to improving queer life on campus.

Gender-neutral housing – the ability for upperclassmen to choose a roommate regardless of his or her gender – would end heteronormativity in the room draw process; comprehensive LGBT training for Junior Advisors would give campus leaders the chance to support queer first-years in a meaningful way; and the other demands (full-time Queer Life Coordinator, resource center, full-time queer studies professor) would help to integrate discussion about and support for queer identities on campus, inside the classroom and out.

There is no way to know for how many students these changes are personally meaningful, because publicly self-identifying has, for some students, significant ramifications. For those queer students fearing the loss of parental, emotional or financial support, alienation from friends, or perhaps even political repercussion if they are from a nation that openly punishes homosexuality, vocalizing their identification is a big decision they may not be ready to make.

Even for those students in supportive situations, a queer identity is not as easy to claim as many racial ones because it is not as visible. Because of the specific difficulties of queer identities, on-campus systems of support are especially crucial. We hope that the administration, faculty and the Board of Trustees are prepared to work to meet students’ demands not only because students’ expressions of marginalization give the College a bad rap, but because they understand that meaningful diversity includes sexuality and gender identity, and that the current institutional structures and policies surrounding those identities fall short of acknowledging that.

We commend the effort of students at the QSU and Women’s Center who are going against the grain and taking action instead of simply wishing things were better, making tangible demands in a way that extends beyond calls for dialogue. They are asking for institutional respect and recognition for queer students, feats that might not necessarily penetrate through all homophobic attitudes on campus during our time here, but which instead make it meaningfully official that Williams is a college that supports queer identities.

Knowing that the institution is structurally inclusive, queer-identifying students will be more likely to matriculate, and, on the ground, homophobic attitudes, muted or overt, will become increasingly less tolerated. For now, students don’t necessarily need to be working in Hardy House in order to support the work of the QSU and Women’s Center; by speaking out against insensitive or homophobic language in everyday conversation, asking questions and keeping an open mind about change at Williams, students can encourage an attitude of openness and, most importantly, respect for their peers.

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