This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=651

This evolution of the College community represents profound change of a kind that, in truth, has sometimes proven difficult to achieve. There is in academia a certain resistance to seeing things change too quickly, often in the form of a wisdom that recognizes that the great staying power of colleges and universities derives at least in part from not giving up easily practices that have long proven effective. We shouldn’t, after all, pursue every new idea that comes along. And yet, Williams’ greatest advances have occurred when we led, rather than followed, our peers. In this regard, Jack Sawyer stands as the exemplary Williams president, building the consensus and the coalitions that enabled the College to transcend its then fraternity-dominated culture. This change, as painful as it was to many, laid the groundwork both for coeducation and for the much more deeply egalitarian community that the College had to become. Sawyer’s genius was to understand that change at Williams cannot be accomplished by a lone leader, but must involve the community as a whole: students, faculty, staff, and, critically, trustees and alumni. This doesn’t mean that everyone agreed with the direction Sawyer led the College, far from it. But he made sure that all voices, including those most likely to dissent, were heard clearly and brought, where possible, to the side of change. Through it all, he tapped, wisely and skillfully, into that purple-blooded passion for the Williams to come that so especially characterizes our alumni — the desire we share that the Williams we love forever evolve to meet the future. Like education itself, change at Williams is a social activity – one that we engage in together, talking to each other on the log.

DK:

Cool winds I hear.
Of change I fear.
And shiver from the cold.

Are you an Eph who likes Williams the way it is? Are you comfortable with the college that you know and its place in higher education? Would you like Williams in 2020 to look like the Williams of today? Read the poetry of Nevin Steinberg and shiver from the cold.

But, for me, the wind is bracing! Adam Falk clearly intends to change Williams in exactly the way that I think he should: a dramatic increase in international students. Fifty years from now, a future Williams president will praise Falk for helping Williams “to transcend its then US-dominated culture” and to become the world’s first truly global liberal arts college.

Recall what Jack Sawyer ’39 is most famous for: the elimination of fraternities at Williams. Do you know that history? Sawyer removed fraternities from Williams decades ahead of most of our peers, thereby (?) catapulting Williams to the front rank of liberal arts colleges. Falk clearly intends to do the same, to make Williams much more international, years before our peers will move in that direction.

Several EphBlog regulars think that I have no evidence for my claims about Falk’s intentions. Perhaps. But here is a simple prediction: Falk will soon announce a committee — made up of students, faculty and alumni — which will be tasked with preparing a report on “International Students at Williams.” That group, clearly modeled on the Angevine Committee, will conclude that Williams should significantly increase international enrollment. You read it here first.

To the skeptics: Why would Falk spend so much time, in the very heart of his speech, discussing Sawyer and the difficulties of change in academia unless he intends to make major changes at Williams? And, if you accept that argument, what major changes could he possibly have in mind that are also consistent with the rest of the speech?

KT:

Who,   me,  skeptic?

I’ll give you my reply to  rory:

Just got in from reading old scrolls and have a lot to do before sunset–

And yet, Williams’ greatest advances have occurred when we led, rather than followed, our peers. In this regard, Jack Sawyer stands as the exemplary Williams president,

Listen carefully. David’s crystal ball is playing tricks on him, but listen carefully.

Sawyer’s genius was to understand that change at Williams cannot be accomplished by a lone leader, but must involve the community as a whole: students, faculty, staff, and, critically, trustees and alumni. This doesn’t mean that everyone agreed with the direction Sawyer led the College, far from it. But he made sure that all voices, including those most likely to dissent, were heard clearly and brought, where possible, to the side of change.

Pick up a Williams College Catalog from 1958.  Pick up one from 1968.  Forget the fraternity issue.  Think of Jack Sawyer sitting listening to Clark Kerr’s Godkin Lectures in 1963,   and then discussing what they meant for Williams with Bob Guadino’s students during the trip back to Williamstown.

Then tell me what happened.

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