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February 4 is Claiming Williams Day, when the community pauses to discuss issues that connect and challenge us. This year the topic of the day is “Examining the Williams Way.” Our panels and discussions—all proposed by Williams students, staff, and faculty—focus on Williams’s institutional history and the challenges that still face us as an educational and social community.

The Committee faces a difficulty in running Claiming Williams: How much sense does it make to have a new theme each year? I am flexible on that question. But, if you are going to have a theme like the “Williams Way” and you are going to claim to focus on topics like “Williams’s institutional history,” then you better come through. And this Committee has not. Look at the schedule. Only a handful of sessions cover anything about this topic and, even for them, it is an add on.

[Y]ou can get a good start to the day in a workshop on white privilege taught by Debby Irving, mother of Emily Irving ’16

Sign me up! To be fair, it is always nice to see Eph parents come to Williams and give presentations. But your typical white Williams student has been confronted by (ludicrous, to her) claims about her privilege for years. You really think many of them are going to get out of bed before 9 for another 90 minutes of the same? Good luck!

At 10:50 in Chapin Hall, Jelani Cobb (historian and New Yorker staff writer) will give a talk called “The Half Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America Today.” Cobb has been an important voice in national conversations about campus climate, especially those that focus on speech issues.

It is probably a mistake to have the major event of the day feature a speaker that 90% (99%?) of Williams students have never heard of or read. If Cobb has really been “an important voice in national conversations about campus climate,” then I am the tooth fairy. Readers interested in Cobb’s views should start with this New Yorker article. (The Committee ought to have included a link to this or some other writings by Cobb in their invitation.)

Another awkwardness is the 10:50 start time. Was this purposeful? Was it driven by difficulties in arranging Cobb’s arrival from U Conn? To the extent that Cobb is the big draw (it will be interesting to see how much of Chapin he can fill), you either want him first thing (to get the kids out of bed and attending morning events) or after lunch.

At Williams we don’t have many opportunities for the whole campus—students, staff and faculty—to have a shared experience of a challenging thinker and speaker.

Is Cobb really a “challenging” speaker? Not in the context of Williams. Exactly what opinion does Cobb hold that any member of the Claiming Williams Steering Committee would disagree with? None that I can see.

Claiming Williams could be a time of honest discussion and debate. Or it could be a day filled with leftist agitprop. How do you think Thursday will go?

Entire e-mail is below the break.

Dear Williams students,

February 4 is Claiming Williams Day, when the community pauses to discuss issues that connect and challenge us. This year the topic of the day is “Examining the Williams Way.” Our panels and discussions—all proposed by Williams students, staff, and faculty—focus on Williams’s institutional history and the challenges that still face us as an educational and social community.

Come early, because you don’t want to miss the first sessions! If you get to Paresky before 9, you can fortify yourself with honeybuns and skyr provided by the awesome Dining Services staff and then begin to make some hard choices: you can get a good start to the day in a workshop on white privilege taught by Debby Irving, mother of Emily Irving ’16; or watch a film sponsored by the Williams Staff Committee that will get you thinking about income inequality and its impact on our own community; or reflect on the past and futures of queer activism, at Williams and beyond. There’s a panel on being an international student at Williams. Or you can participate in institutional change in a more hands-on way: learning how to bake bread from sustainably-farmed grains with Chef Michael Menard, or attending a writing workshop with poet Michael Lee where the focus will be on the relation between individual and collective history.

And then, once you’re up, there’s a full day to come. At 10:50 in Chapin Hall, Jelani Cobb (historian and New Yorker staff writer) will give a talk called “The Half Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America Today.” Cobb has been an important voice in national conversations about campus climate, especially those that focus on speech issues. At Williams we don’t have many opportunities for the whole campus—students, staff and faculty—to have a shared experience of a challenging thinker and speaker. So please attend—with friends, classmates, faculty and staff.

For the schedule for the rest of the day’s offerings, see this link:http://claiming.williams.edu/

Hope to see you on February 4!

The Claiming Williams Steering Committee

http://claiming.williams.edu/committee/

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