The best part of the Final Report (pdf) from the Neighborhood Review Committee (NRC) is its praise of sophomore housing.

It is striking to note that just over 70% of the first-year respondents believe that the College should offer sophomores the option of living in designated sophomore housing. … The committee concluded that the sophomore housing option is worthy of further study.

Read the whole thing. As best I can tell, the Committee was pro-sophomore housing but with a non-trivial minority against. Yet the central flaw of the Report in this regard was its complete failure to describe and analyze the history of sophomore housing at Williams, at least since 1990. (Useful references here, here and here.) Short version: Sophomores decided, on their own, that they wanted to live together in Mission. A large majority of sophomores preferred living in housing that was 90% sophomores. They achieved this goal in the early 1990s by trading their picks. Free agency arrived in 1994 and made the process more simple/fair/transparent.

Recommendation: Allow the sophomores to live together in the Berkshire Quad. The Kane Housing Plan (pdf) provides all the necessary details.

A fine rant (slightly edited) from past discussions below.

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The big example of biological tone deafness in the 2005 CUL Report is:

It was never decided that residential affiliation was no longer appropriate for Williams, or that there was a form of residential life better suited to the College and its students, but the introduction of the all-campus room draw made affiliation instantaneously meaningless, because students no longer lived in the same building, with the same collection of people, for more than a single year. The death of the old house system was thus thoroughly incidental, and the free agent era of today is the result of blind evolution rather than careful and deliberate design.

“Blind evolution”?! Isn’t this one of the classic lines of argument favored by creationists far and wide? Why, yes it is!

Actually, there are myriads of STRANGE PLANTS and ANIMALS having characteristics that to the superficial observer seem to be “without rhyme or reason,” that can not be accounted for by blind evolution, but show the handiwork of an intelligent Designer and Creator.

CUL, like all good creationists, does not think that “blind evolution” is a powerful force, does not believe that useful structures and practices can arise without the benefit of “design” by, presumably, groups like CUL.

Perhaps. Design certainly has a place in the governance of Williams. To cite just one of scores of examples, I think that the JA Selection Committee should have more members. This may be a good idea or it may be a bad one, but it is definitely a question of design.

My issue with CUL is that they seem to denigrate the roll that evolution — blind or otherwise — played in the change in the house system from 1988 to 1992 or so. No rules were changed, but for some reason, the sophomores who had spots in the Gladden House recently vacated by Will Dudley decided that they did not want to live in Gladden. They wanted to live in Armstrong; not because Armstrong provided better housing (it didn’t) but because Mission had become the place that many, many sophomores wanted to live in.

The sophomores themselves had decided — without consulting with Will Dudley — that they wanted to live with each other, that they were better served by spending time and eating meals with Ephs that they would be at Williams with for three more years rather than with seniors who had other interests and priorities than chatting up the latest crop of sophomores.

The current housing system may reflect an evolutionary process, but that process is anything but “blind.” Former Housing Director Tom McEvoy (along with just about everyone else on campus at the time) recognized that the students — seeing perfectly well what sort of system would serve their needs — had ended affiliation themselves. Mission was more than 90% sophomores before any rule was changed. Campus wide room draw simply made more fair and rationale a system that had already evolved.

The CUL is filled with good and decent people who don’t seem to understand the history of Williams housing, at least in the last 25 years, and who are extremely distrustful of the idea that students might know what is best for themselves. Just as creationist can’t imagine the power of evolution, the CUL can’t seem to appreciate the ability of students to create their own communities, to recognize that they are better off organizing their lives in housing largely stratified by class year.
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