The Minority Coaltion has responded to President Falk’s e-mail about The Merrill Committee that is charged with examining problematic decorations/monuments/images at Williams. Let’s spend three days mocking this madness. Today is Day 1.
1) Entire Min Co e-mail is below the break. Enjoy!
2) The new committee is not officially named the Merrill Committee yet, but the College does have a history of eventually naming committees/reports after the chair.
3) How is it that MinCo is able to send an e-mail to all Williams students? I don’t think that many/any other student organizations have that right, at least outside of very non-partisan notices about vacancies and what not. I think Falk is making a mistake to give MinCo such a loud megaphone. Of course, they can and should say whatever they want to (just like Uncomfortable Learning) but the College is under no affirmative obligation to give them privileged access to the all-student e-mail list.
4) The letter mentions that on “Sunday, December 6, our administration will hold a community forum focused on the topic of institutional diversity and equity.” Did anyone attend? What happened?
5) The letter mentions the “Committee on Historical Representation.” Is this the official terminology? I much prefer the “Merrill Committee.”
More deconstruction on Thursday . . . Full e-mail below.
Dear Williams students,
In a recent email to the all-student listserv, President Falk indicated our capacity as co-chairs of the Minority Coalition (MinCo), to recommend three students for an ad hoc committee formed to address the “historical representations on campus.” After much reflection, discussion, and feedback from others, we have decided to directly address you, the student body, to inform you that we refuse this task as MinCo co-chairs to recommend a student to the Committee to Consider Historical Representation on Campus. We refuse to be complicit in the bureaucratic erasure it will inevitably perpetuate.
By restricting this conversations this committee will have to a select few faculty, administrators, and 3 student members who will serve on this committee, we risk allowing this critical moment to be usurped by the throes of bureaucracy. As student representatives we must ask one another and the entire student body if this is a risk we want to take; if we truly believe the matters at hand can be effectively addressed through the current structures in place. One of the most poignant issues driving the formation of this committee is a mural in the Log depicting Mohawk Chief Hendrick, Ephraim Williams, and others before a battle. President Falk, in his December 1 email, outlined the steps he has taken since this issue came to his attention, yet in determining his course of action, we know that Professor Doug Kiel, the only Native American Studies professor who particularly teaches native Native American studies, was not consulted about the formation of this Committee; nor was the American Studies department, which is a body of diverse expertise surrounding the American legacies of (mis)representing colonial histories. At this point, the President’s Office has failed to demonstrate adequate due-diligence to include necessary, relevant, and expert voices on this committee.
This committee is not intended to, neither does it have the potential to become an effective means of addressing the essential problem. Let us be mindful of this essential problem, or rather, a crucial part of it: we, Williams students as well as the wider members of the community, are not even fully aware of the histories that shape our campus and the “representations” in question; nor are we, as supposedly equal community members, allowed full and equal access to the College’s systemic mechanisms of self-determination, in either the ideological and rhetorical or financial and physical spheres. Much of this has to do with the hegemonic version of our campus history that erases the injustices inherent in the foundations of this college: the unjust theft of indigenous lands and the murder of indigenous to build the college, and the inevitable connection between those events and the continued social disenfranchisement of indigenous people in the U.S. to the present day. These histories at Williams and nationally continue to limit First Nations peoples’ access to Williams as students. They are linked to the other histories of racism that limit people of color’s access to this campus and shape their everyday experience of it as well as histories of colonialism and American imperialism that limit international students of color’s access to this campus. Is this a history we ought to erase, every single one of us who partakes in its fruits? Critically we ask: will the committee help us utilize our full agency as a community, as part of the institution, to do something about it?
So what do the two of us mean by ‘do something about it’? In the eyes of administration, the creation of this committee–which is not transparent or democratic–is ‘The Solution’, but we can no longer rely on bureaucracy and self-directed systemic evolution to address these issues alone. 222 years is a long time to wait to address historical misrepresentations, let alone contemplate these misrepresentations in committees that do not, and cannot solicit feedback from those who its business most directly concerns.
Student leaders are not offered any direct discretionary role in composing the Committee on Historical Representation, setting the terms for its discussion, or determining what its goal should be, but we are asked to bear the responsibility of making it as diverse as our organization is presumed to be, in three students or less. Conclusively, we are not confident that any student recommendation that we could make would be properly considered by President Falk and the administration in general, given the faculty appointments made and the conditional circumstances of our involvement. This process is both paradoxical and undemocratic, even as it seeks to present itself as the best and only means of addressing the issue: when will we move from talking about talking to direct action?
This upcoming Sunday, December 6, our administration will hold a community forum focused on the topic of institutional diversity and equity. We ask that all students, faculty and staff interested in the future orientation of our institution attend this meeting.
If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to reach Bushra Ali (bsa1) and Penny Sun (ps8) directly.
With gratitude for your time and warm regards,
Bushra S. Ali and Penny Sun
Minority Coalition Co-Chairs, ’15-’16