The Record editorialized in favor of “affinity housing,” one of the demands made by CARE Now to both President Mandel (pdf) and the trustees. This means, more or less, reserving/restricting specific houses for/to black/Hispanic/Asian students. I have some small acquaintance with the history/politics/propaganda of Williams housing, so let’s dive in. Day 3.

From the letter to Mandel:

While ​de facto​ affinity housing has existed at Williams for a considerable amount of time in the form of off-campus housing on Hoxsey Street,these are predominantly taken by athletes and wealthy students who can afford the penalty for signing leases early.

I am sympathetic to this complaint. (And recall our 5-part series on the BSU Town Hall which, on many dimensions, was the starting point for CARE Now.)

The second biggest change in student life may have been the ever-increasing isolation of athletes from other parts of the student community. For example, members of the lacrosse team are much more likely to live with each other now, including off-campus, then they were back in the day.

There are about 100 recruited athletes in every Williams class. I think almost every one of them, after first year, lives in a rooming group with at least one other member of their team. I think a large percentage (a majority?) might live only with members of their team. The Record should do some reporting about this.

The issue of athletes living together in Gladden is different than the issue of them living together on Hoxsey Street.

What might be done? A goofy alum wrote to the Record:

To the editor:

The Record’s editorial of April 17, 2019 (“On the need for affinity housing”) argues that Williams students should have more control over whom they live with. I agree. I have discovered a truly remarkable plan which this letter is too small to contain. Summary: The best housing policy would involve three major structures. First, a Student Housing Committee – modeled on the Junior Advisor Selection Committee – should run most aspects of the housing process. The more that students have responsibility for managing their own lives, the more they will learn from the process and the better the outcomes will be.

Second, students should, as much as possible, live in houses with other members of their Williams class: sophomores in the Berkshire Quad; juniors in Greylock; seniors in row houses and co-ops.

Third, non-senior rooming groups should be as large as possible and of fixed size, but subject to diversity constraints. For example, sophomore rooming groups would be any number less than five or exactly equal to 15, with restrictions on both gender balance and organization membership. Allowing students to group themselves has two main advantages: It creates genuine house community and it provides major incentives for large groups to “pick up” less popular students. The more that students sort themselves into houses and the more incentives they have for being both diverse and inclusive, the better the housing experience for everyone.

The best first step would be to change the co-op process so that groups have to be large enough to fill a house. This would allow experiments with “affinity housing” in all but name.

Did any Record reader notice the math joke in the 3rd sentence . . .

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