I believe that the major focus of Committee on Undergraduate life this year is the freshmen/entry experience. Can anyone confirm and/or provide background? From Will Slack ’11 (a CUL member) writing on WSO:

Everyone got an e-mail last night linking to a survey from the “Committee on Undergraduate Life.” This group, which six students sit on, recommends policy on all things non-academic at Williams. It’s also the group that, in 2005, recommended and shaped the Neighborhood System. This all means that the survey you got (and your responses to it) are going to be vital for whatever recommendations the CUL might make about the future of the entry system. If you have any questions about the survey, feel free to post them below. I can’t promise I’ll have computer access to answer them, but hopefully others on the CUL will see and reply.

This isn’t something to skip out on. Anecdotally, I know that many people have horrible or very difficult entry experiences, including myself. But these experiences aren’t the whole story – we also know that many people really enjoy their experiences. The six of us on the CUL do our best to represent all of you, but we can’t hope to know and express the experiences of everyone. That’s why we need you to fill out the survey, and if possible, give us some qualitative data through the free response section. Remember: your responses are confidential. I know it’s Winter Study, and I know we’re all focusing on having as much fun as possible. I’m actually in Jerusalem right now on a travel course. But please take the 5 minutes to give us your thoughts – your responses may well help to inform the first-year experiences of countless Williams frosh that will follow in your footsteps. We want to know what has or hasn’t worked.

Tell us.

1) I hope that CUL will be as transparent as the Claiming Williams folks have been and recently the full details of the survey responses. Doing so will make for a much more productive discussion.

2) Please provide a copy of the questions in the comments.

3) Improving the first year experience is easy. Just do what I recommended three years ago, in a slightly different context: Expand First Days by one week and focus that time on getting more freshmen to know more of their peers.

Imagine an extra week of First Days, a week that focuses almost completely on meeting your fellow Ephs, on learning their names, their dreams, their hopes and aspirations. Imagine a freshmen class in which every resident of Pratt knows, not just the names of everyone in her entry, but the names of every student in her dorm. Imagine a week cut off from Williams academics and Williams sports, a week spent focusing on your classmates, the students you will spend the next four years with and then stay connected with for decades thereafter.

If you want to improve “community interaction” then you need to strengthen the Williams community, and that begins by learning names and sharing meals. Such learning and sharing occurs in entries and during the school year, of course. But the more such connections are made, the stronger our community will become.

CUL ignored my wise advice on housing. Perhaps they will listen to me on this. An extra week (or more) of First Days would make many of the freshmen who currently have a miserable experience in their entries less miserable because it will make it easy for them to get to know students outside their entry but in their dorm.

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