1) The Neighborhood Review Committee has published a Second Interim Report (pdf).

2) Will Slack published an e-mail (full contents below the break) about “Four Proposals for Residential Systems,” created by NRC and CUL (I think) and which will be discussed at a forum on Tuesday night.

3) The best idea is my housing plan, new version coming soon. Among the four options below, the best is the sophomores in Berkshire Quad option (Proposal III). Indeed, the language used mirrors many of the arguments that I have made in the past.

Greetings Campus,

College Council invites you to attend the third Neighborhood Review Forum, which will be held tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 12, at 7:30 pm in Baxter Hall. The Neighborhood Review Committee and the Committee on Undergraduate Life will present four proposals for future residential systems at Williams College. We welcome all questions and feedback. Please read below for more information on the proposals. The full second interim report of the Neighborhood Review Committee can be found at www.williams.edu/dean/.

See you tomorrow!
Lizzy Brickley and Mike Tcheyan
CC Co-Presidents

*******************************************************************************************************
Four Proposals for Residential Systems
To Be Discussed at the Third Public Forum, January 12, 2010
Sponsored by the Neighborhood Review Committee, The Committee on
Undergraduate Life, and College Council

Below are four proposals for residential systems that we outline for the purpose of discussion at the public forum on January 12, 2010. The recommendations that the NRC will make to the College about upper-class residential life may take pieces from several of these or may be entirely new; we simply present these proposals as a way to get the conversation started.

This particular list originally emerged out of meetings of the Committee on Undergraduate Life in December; the Neighborhood Review Committee (NRC), in turn, provided feedback to the CUL on the list of proposals and made suggestions for changes in wording and format. Please note that the Neighborhood Review Committee has not had any formal discussion yet of the actual merits of any of these proposals.

Proposal I:
Preserve the Neighborhood system and current housing placement system but with some possible modifications, which appear below. Here are the advantages and disadvantages to preserving the basic structure.

Advantages:

1. The current system does a good job of diversifying residential life.
2. The programming that comes out of the Neighborhoods has provided a variety of events that previously did not exist.

Disadvantages:

1. Students will not be able to pick the housing they want. They will be restricted to the Neighborhood they are in.
2. Students cannot live with friends in other Neighborhoods unless they change Neighborhoods and get a lower room-draw number.

A list of some possible modifications appears below; there are certainly others that could be imagined:

Modification A. Allow groups of up to six students to switch Neighborhoods (they could come from a variety of Neighborhoods) without penalty in the housing lottery. But when they leave a Neighborhood, they do not get to choose which Neighborhood they go to, but rather are assigned to a random Neighborhood.

Advantages:

1. Students complain that in the current system, they cannot live with their friends, or to do so penalizes them in the lottery, since they need to switch Neighborhoods. But with this modification, they could live with friends and there is no penalty in the housing lottery. But they do give up the choice of the Neighborhood within which they would live.

Disadvantages:

1. Students would not be able to pick the housing they want. They would be restricted to the Neighborhood they are in or the new Neighborhood to which they are assigned.
2. Students who want to live with friends could end up in what they consider to be an undesirable Neighborhood.

Modification B. Seniors remain affiliated with a Neighborhood but get first choice of housing anywhere on campus (except Mission and Frosh Quad). For first years, sophomores and juniors, the system remains as it is now.

Advantages:

1. Students have complained about their limited housing options when they must choose from within a Neighborhood. This system allows seniors complete free agency. They can choose to live where they want and with whom they want.

Disadvantages:

1. Except for seniors, students will not be able to pick the housing they want. They are restricted to the Neighborhood they are in. They could not live with friends outside of their Neighborhood unless they use the option of picking into another Neighborhood with friends with the lottery penalty.
2. Pick groups for seniors would have to consist only of seniors.
3. Each year, we wouldn’t know where the seniors would pick. They may pick more into one Neighborhood than another, meaning that there isn’t sufficient housing remaining for the sophomore and junior members of those Neighborhoods. A possible modification would be to set aside senior housing and seniors could only pick from those rooms. However, this would be the nicest housing available.

Modification C. First year students are not affiliated with a Neighborhood their first year. Rather, in the spring, they form groups of students and request certain Neighborhoods. A lottery determines which student groups end up in which Neighborhoods.
Advantages:
1. Rather than assigning entries to Neighborhoods, students enter a Neighborhood with their other first-year friends selected from across the entries, thereby allowing them to live near these “early” friends for their time at Williams.
Disadvantages:

1. Bonding with Neighborhoods cannot begin to occur until the end of the first year.
2. Many first year students may request the same Neighborhood, which is perceived to have high-quality sophomore housing, so many may be disappointed. An alternative option would be to have first-year students form a group and then have the groups randomly assigned to Neighborhoods.

A fourth modification is less about the system used for determining housing, and more about the physical breakdown of housing into Neighborhoods:

Modification D. Rethink the geography of the Neighborhoods. One option would be to redesignate each neighborhood to contain some of each of the types of housing on campus, without trying to keep the housing of a given neighborhood in close proximity. Another option would be to change the number and size of the neighborhoods.

Advantages and disadvantages would depend on the type of design employed.

Proposal II.
After the first year, students go into a general housing lottery that is seniority based, as occurred before the Neighborhood System. There would be gender caps on houses. Perhaps some additional safeguards would exist to prevent the emergence of homogeneous enclaves of students. The Neighborhood system would still exist in order to provide social programming.

Advantages:

1. One of the most common complaints from students about the current system is their lack of choice in housing. Since they are restricted to live in a Neighborhood, they can only choose housing in that Neighborhood. But for various reasons, certain students may find one Neighborhood more desirable than another. For instance, theater students may want to live in Greylock because of its proximity to the theater.
2. Students also complain that the Neighborhood system does not allow them to live with friends who happen to be in other Neighborhoods. Now, everyone could live with whomever they wanted.
3. Seniors get their pick of the most desirable housing on campus, with no restrictions.

Disadvantages:

1. One of the goals of the Neighborhood system is to foster a diverse living environment. This system allows for various groups to create homogeneous enclaves on campus, which is in direct conflict with the stated goal of creating a diverse living environment.
2. If a house is predominantly filled with a particular group of students, it can make the living situation uncomfortable for other students who may be assigned to that house.

Proposal III.
In this system, first-year housing remains as is. Then sophomores all live together in one area on campus. A housing lottery for where sophomores live within that area determines their individual rooms. Juniors and seniors have seniority-based free agency with the remaining housing.

Advantages:

1. The class years bond better. They spend two years with their classes. The hope would be that by getting to know their class better, the bonds begun in first year that cut across specific interests, sports, and groups, would be cemented and last into junior and senior year. Also, the sophomores are not scattered to the winds, and have more of a support group living with them in their second year.
2. This system has a certain amount of built in diversity, similar to what occurs in the Neighborhoods. That is to say, the first year housing is diverse because it is engineered to be so. The sophomore year housing will be diverse because the sophomore class lives together, and a group of 530 is diverse by its selection in the admissions process. (This is slightly bigger than the size of a current Neighborhood and therefore attains approximately the same level of diversity as occurs there.)
3. The juniors and seniors would have free agency, allowing them to pick from all of the remaining housing. One could also allow them to first pick doubles if they so desired, giving more sophomores singles. This recognizes the fact that students mature over their time at Williams, and the hope would be that by the junior and senior year, students would choose to live in diverse houses. The opportunity to be able to live with friends and to live in prime housing is important to seniors.

Disadvantages:

1. One of the categories of diversity that is not achieved is class diversity. Sophomores miss out on the chance to get to know juniors and seniors and lose the opportunity to get advice from them. However, of all the categories of diversity that have been brought up as desirable, the category of mixing classes has been perceived to be the least such.
2. Where do you put the sophomore class? As current operations stand, the College could house about 60% of the sophomores in close proximity to each other, and institutionally, we would need to set as a priority figuring out how we could have more of the sophomore class housed together. In the short term, we could consider converting the Berkshire Quad into sophomore housing, which would accommodate 333. What about the rest? One option is to have them take the remaining doubles on campus, which would be just about right to accommodate the remaining 200. This does not increase the number of doubles for the sophomore class over the first year class, but it has the disadvantage of spreading these 200 sophomores out and mixing them in with the juniors and seniors. But most doubles occur in groups, so they would still have a sophomore cohort with which to hang out, and in the past, when Mission was essentially all sophomores, the sophomores who did not live in Mission would often congregate there, and go to parties there, so the same would probably occur with the Berkshire Quad.
3. Homogeneous enclaves could emerge for juniors and seniors. However, the number of students congregating would be substantially less than in the upperclass free agency system, since the sophomores could not live there. Also, since the on-campus juniors who are not JAs is a smaller group, the total number of students in the free agency system would be less than 900.

Proposal IV.
The first-year entries continue to exist, but not at Mission and the Frosh Quad. Instead, they are placed as a subset of the larger houses and Neighborhoods. An entry may be a collection of contiguous rooms on a floor in a residence hall for instance. So first-year students bond with the Neighborhoods right from the start, as they are part of Neighborhoods. They also have the opportunity to bond with the upper class students who live in their vicinity.

Advantages:

1. It has been argued that the reason the Neighborhood system hasn’t worked well at Williams is because of the entry system. The first-year students bond with their entry and not with a Neighborhood. At the schools where residential colleges work well, there is a tremendous bond formed with the individual residence college right from the first year. You are as much a member of that college as you are of the university. In this system, we provide that opportunity for students to form that bond right at the start.
2. The diversity inherent in the Neighborhood system is preserved.

Disadvantages:

1. It is not at all clear that one could form enough effective entry enclaves within the Neighborhoods.
2. It makes it harder for first-year students to get to know other first-year students who are not in their entry.
3. All of the complaints about the restriction of housing choices in the Neighborhood system apply here.

Additional Modifications/Options,
Independent of Particular Systems

1. Substance Free/ Quiet Housing

In all of the suggested housing systems, it may make sense to have substance-free housing and/or quiet housing. The placement of such housing would depend on the demand. One could imagine it in West, with easy access to the center of campus, and away from other noisier housing. Another possibility would be to make Tyler/Tyler Annex into quiet housing. It has the advantage that it is set away by itself, and so would be particularly quiet. Moreover, this would prevent a return to the culture previously associated with these houses. But it might be perceived as a punishment for students seeking this housing to be banished to Tyler.
Note that it is more difficult to provide substance free and quiet housing in a system that preserves Neighborhoods, since that may require four substance free and/or quiet houses, one for each Neighborhood. But even in the Neighborhood system, one could have an application process preceding housing draw for students across Neighborhoods to apply for substance free/ quiet housing. That housing could be attached to a particular Neighborhood, or be its own Neighborhood, depending on demand.

2.Theme Housing

Williams could institute theme housing for a subset of residences, or halls within residences. At other schools, a variety of theme houses exist, including those based on language, religion, environmental action, politics, music, food or other interests. Some schools have standing theme houses that continue year to year. Others have an application process for creating theme houses for one year at a time. Again, with a Neighborhood system in place, the mechanics of theme housing becomes more difficult.

3.Co-op Housing

Some schools offer co-op housing wherein students live, cook and clean together in a truly cooperative living environment. The College could consider converting a subset of “co-op” housing into actual co-ops, in this sense.

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