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Faculty Governance Seminar: Queer Life Coordinator

This is the second installment in our week-long seminar on President Adam Falk’s letter about the “alignment of senior administrative responsibilities.”

Consider this (never published?) letter to the New York Times from Falk (link added).

Questioning the Need for a Queer Life Coordinator?

By Adam Falk

Timed to coincide with the publishing of their book criticizing higher education, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, recently had an essay run in The New York Times Education Supplement.

Perhaps inadvertently, the essay, titled “Administrative Glut,” does Williams the favor of publicizing our commitment to the position of Queer Life Coordinator – one of several positions and offices at Williams that the authors imply the College could do without.

But, of course, to do without them would be to abandon what Williams is: a vibrant community working to enable all of its members to live, learn, and thrive. That we won’t do.

As wrongheaded as I find their analysis, I hope the authors continue to help us spread this word.

Assume for a second that the College’s current Queer Life Coordinator, Justin Adkins (an occasional EphBlog correspondent) is the best in the country. (And I have heard nothing but good things about, and have enjoyed my own dealings with, him.) Still, every conversation he has with students, every decision he makes, every thing he does is something that could be (should be?) done by a member of the Williams faculty. If Justin leaves Williams, shouldn’t we replace him with an (excellent) professor like Katie Kent ’88, Carmen Whalen or Chris Waters?

With a professor in this role, a professor still teaching her classes and doing her research — just as Fred Copeland ’35 did 50 years ago while simultaneously serving as Director of Admissions — “faculty governance” is increased. It would be a faculty member advising students, a faculty member learning directly about their concerns, a faculty member involved in making Williams better. Instead of Justin Adkins as the lead non-student involved in the occupation of Hardy House last year, wouldn’t the College be better off with a faculty member in that role?

Consider an extreme scenario: a Williams without senior administrators. Every thing that needs to be done is done by the faculty. Since there are 300 faculty members, this does not require a lot of work on average. Instead of a single faculty members as Dean of the College, there would a Dean and 4 assistant deans, each in charge of a different aspect of student life, each serving for three years, each simultaneously engaged in teaching and research, each interacting with students both inside and outside the classroom.

Would those faculty members be busy? Sure! But busy is good. We want faculty members to be busy. We want them to be (more) deeply engaged in the life of the College. We want faculty members to take their “community service” responsibilities just as seriously as they take their academic research. In this scenario, every faculty member at Williams (who is not on sabbatical) would devote 10 hours per week to administrative duties.

Instead of a single Provost, we would have a Provost and 5 assistant provosts. Instead of a single Dean of the Faculty, we would have a Dean and five assistant deans. Instead of an Admissions Department without a single faculty member, five or more faculty would make the key decisions about who comes to Williams.

How much more poorly would Williams be run if all the senior administrator hires of the last decade had never been made? Was the Williams of the 1980s (with less than 1/3 of the current bureaucracy) really less well governed than the Williams of today?