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Great Awokening, 3

Williams Political Science Professor Darel Paul writes about “Listening at the Great Awokening.” This is a brilliant article, worth reading in full. Relevant controversies at Williams include The Taco Six, Self-CARE Now, UL/Derbyshire, Green/Love Black Joy, and White Male Vigilantes. Alas, I don’t fully trust our busy readership to find the time to do so! So, we will spend two weeks going through the entire article. Day 3.

Threats to life are now commonplace accusations. A black faculty member at Evergreen claimed “My ability to speak and my ability to be heard is a matter of my personal survival, and so, for me, this is about my teaching but also my life.” This is not a figure of speech, for the same faculty member also claimed “This shit is literally going to kill me.” Student graffiti at Williams claims “Nos están matando!” [They are killing us!], and two black Williams professors insist “What we have been doing to fit our bodies in these institutions is killing us.”

Paul does not provide a link to the matando graffiti. Was this reported somewhere? Any photos?

The infamous 2015 incident at Yale University, in which dozens of students argued with Professor Nicholas Christakis on the Silliman College quad in the wake of an unwelcome email from Christakis’s wife regarding Halloween costumes, crystallizes the claim:

Christakis: “So I have a vision of us, as people, as human beings, that actually privileges our common humanity, that is interested not in what is different among us, but what is the same … I believe even though I am not like you in the sense of my superficial appearance, that I can sit down and talk to you and understand your predicament, that I can listen to you. If that’s not true, if you deny that, then what is the reason that you ask to be heard, by me or anyone else?”

Student: “Because we’re dying!”

Did you watch the video of Christakis? It is amazing! Highly recommended. Paul continues:

No surprise then that the language of safety has become ubiquitous among anti-racist protestors: “I feel unsafe” (Williams); “I don’t feel safe here and that’s on you” (Yale); “This school is unsafe for marginalized students and you know it” (Evergreen); only after students “dismantle systematic oppression” will the school “be sustainable or safe for marginalized people” (Sarah Lawrence). Rather than push for greater police presence on campus, however, students instead demand an expansion of mental health services―usually emphasizing cultural competence or, more crudely, racial hiring. This began with the very first protests of the Great Awokening at the University of Missouri in 2014. There, one of seven student demands was “increases [in] funding and resources for the University of Missouri Counseling Center for the purpose of hiring additional mental health professionals; particularly those of color.” Activist students at Sarah Lawrence demand “at least” one new black, Asian and Latino/a therapist, “unlimited therapy sessions” on campus and free transportation for students to attend therapy sessions off campus. Those at Williams demanding the College “hire additional therapists, with a focus on trans therapists and therapists of color” are simply the latest instance of this pattern.

I have two contradictory views on the therapist issue. First, I want more money spent of things that students want/use and less money spent on everything else. If students want/use therapists then, by all means, hire more therapists.

Second, the bureaucracy at Williams continues to grow out of control! Health Services has 35 employees. That is bonkers! There are 15 therapists. (I realize that some of them must (?) be part-time.)

Is there data about the use of therapists? How many Williams students are seen by a therapist in a given year? How many sessions does a typical Williams student in therapy receive? How have those numbers changed in the last decade? Does therapy help?

Keep in mind:

1) Every dollar that we spend on another therapist is a dollar that we are not spending on an additional faculty member. I want more faculty and smaller classes.

2) Williams should focus more on preparing students for life after Williams. I am ready to believe that therapy is helpful and that we should employ some therapists. But is providing a senior with unlimited therapy — with no co-pay! — a good idea if, the day after graduation, she will have no more therapy? I am not sure that it is.

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12 Comments To "Great Awokening, 3"

#1 Comment By John Drew On June 5, 2019 @ 2:50 pm

There is no question that the level of stress has increased on college campuses. I’m confident that they need more therapists now. I think much of the problem is identity politics. We now see minority students placed in institutions which are too fast paced and competitive for their skill levels. The consequence is that they can never maintain a reasonable GPA in an environment where many students are way faster and way smarter than them. Too often, minority students, especially those with substance abuse or prior mental health problems, end up dropping out because they are doing so poorly in their course work.

One of the school’s most flamboyant, black, gay students is not on campus this year. His Twitter feed indicates he has taken a leave from Williams this semester and is now studying at a community college. He was failing classes and could not keep up. Apparently, things aren’t going so well for him at his new community college either. He performed a Vogue Fem routine in his Afro Latino history class and the other black male students are caught on film laughing at him.

Students like this should never have been admitted to Williams College. They don’t have the maturity, strength, or IQ to fairly compete here. The end up on campus, however, because they meet the school’s need to fill its quota of minority, outcast students. The school is willing to risk having these students suffer and fail. Williams needs to return to merit based admissions and do everyone a favor.

#2 Comment By Will Stewart On June 5, 2019 @ 4:50 pm

David, this take is so misguided I thought Johnny Drew had written it!

1) Mental health is predicate to everything. Students cannot take advantage of classes, no matter their size, if they are not being taken care of (and taking care of themselves) adequately.

2) Plenty of students will have excellent access to mental health services after graduation, depending on their employment/graduate school situation. The prospective lack of it down the road is a horrible justification for denying it at present. That same logic would justify getting rid of a whole host of activities and services Williams offers.

You have children. Be more empathetic.
You have a Williams degree. Be smarter.
You are not Johnny Drew. Be more decent.

#3 Comment By DDF On June 5, 2019 @ 5:06 pm

Will,

Is there any number of therapists that would make you question Williams? What if Maud hired 20 or 50 or 100? How about 500 therapists, each offering 90 minutes a day of therapy to four students each?

If there is no number that would make you question (politely!) Williams, then there is nor much for us to talk about. If there is, then what would that number be?

#4 Comment By Will Stewart On June 5, 2019 @ 5:15 pm

Dave,

Supply needs to meet demand. It’s that simple. The puzzling nature of your argumentation makes you sound like a professor who was removed from tenure track and got kicked out of academia thereafter.

#5 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On June 5, 2019 @ 5:22 pm

> Supply needs to meet demand.

Uhh, no it doesn’t.

There are more Williams students who want singles than there are singles.

There are more Williams students that want spots on the basketball team than there are places for them.

There are more Williams students who want to take a tutorial with Joe Cruz than there are places.

There are dozens of places at Williams at which supply does not meet demand.

Correct me if I am wrong, but your position is that: If any Williams student wants therapy, the College must provide it, regardless of how many therapists we need to hire?

#6 Comment By Will Stewart On June 5, 2019 @ 5:44 pm

Dave,

I think you’re just trolling at this point. No wonder you and Johnny are buddies!

#7 Comment By John Drew On June 5, 2019 @ 6:02 pm

I think the relevant point here is that Williams College is an educational institution. It isn’t a mental hospital.

If you have a kid who is abusing drugs and alcohol, skipping classes, flaking out on school work, or engaging in suicidal ideation, then you need to get that kid into an appropriate outpatient program or an in-patient treatment facility.

I don’t think there is any reason to believe that Williams College is capable of providing appropriate mental health services for its students. That’s not its mission. Even worse, the college is likely to hire mental health professions who share the same, unproductive, self-destructive, delusional beliefs as its faculty and administrators.

I can just see a Williams College therapist explaining away a student’s obsession to imitate Dr. G’s nude visit to the Clark Art Museum as a modern day art project based on the Australian walkabout rite of passage.

If Williams wants to reduce the stress experienced by its students one of its first tasks would be to stop admitting students who don’t have the talent, skills or IQ needed to compete at an institution like Williams College.

Finally, students need to take protective action. If you think you are going to go cra cra in a small geographically isolated community, locked into some of the worst weather in the nation, filled with white townsfolk who don’t get the finer points of Voguing, then you are probably better off going somewhere else.

#8 Comment By Will Stewart On June 5, 2019 @ 7:55 pm

Johnny, this comment thread is reserved solely for those not forcibly removed from the Williams community! Moderator, please delete the comments of this scurvy ogre.

#9 Comment By John Drew On June 5, 2019 @ 10:11 pm

– Will Stewart

You obviously weren’t around the last time I taught at Williams. I remember a classroom of almost 30 students, in tears, during my final lecture.

You have to remember that, other than me, t. A lot of people were shocked and saddened at the way I was gaslight and mistreated…

#10 Comment By Skeptical On June 5, 2019 @ 11:19 pm

You obviously weren’t around the last time I taught at Williams. I remember a classroom of almost 30 students, in tears, during my final lecture.

There is a zero percent chance this is true.

#11 Comment By recent grad On June 6, 2019 @ 1:42 am

Assuming the questions about mental health services were asked in good faith:

-I believe a figure I’ve seen on IWS (Integrative Wellbeing Services, the official name for Williams’ mental health services) is that 1/3 of students make use of their services.

-I have no idea what is included in this. IWS offers a whole host of different opportunities to engage with their therapists: there’s regular scheduled therapy, as well as psychiatry, but also walk-in hours where you might go to discuss a one-off problem, as well as group therapy. I would imagine all these various types of engagement would be included in the engagement figure, but I don’t know.

-Regardless, it’s very much a significant portion of campus that engages with IWS.

-Getting anecdotal here and for the rest of the post: we are not, in my opinion, at the level of comfort on campus that I’d necessarily know if a given friend or acquaintance of mine had scheduled appointments with a therapist. What I can say is that, when awkwardly sitting in the waiting room for my therapist appointments, I’d always be rather surprised by who I’d see there; it was truly a cross-section of campus.

-A large number of the therapists employed by Williams are post-graduate fellows here for only two years. I imagine this is a pretty big cost-saving factor; it’s also the case that these fellows tend to make up more of the therapists of color and, of course, younger therapists, which are sometimes factors that students specifically request in being scheduled with a therapist.

-I truly may be misremembering, and this is again something where I don’t know what goes into the figure. But I believe, at my first meeting with my therapist, he told me that on average students who have recurring therapy sessions will end up using about 10 sessions of therapy. Theoretically, however, therapy sessions are unlimited. This is very much not the case at other schools; at several of my friends’ Ivy League institutions, students will get something like 6 sessions during their entire time at the school, before they’re forced to seek off-campus care. I personally have very much benefitted from knowing that I had access to as many sessions as I needed during my entire time at Williams. I went through semesters of seeing and not seeing a therapist, dealing with different issues, switching therapists as needed. I was incredibly grateful that I didn’t have to also worry about budgeting out my therapy.

-The argument that students won’t have this level of therapy in the “real world” and thus shouldn’t at Williams, is absolutely absurd. First–isn’t a frequent selling point of Williams that, here, students have easy access to things they won’t have such easy access to for the rest of their lives, such things being not only academic (easy access to professors, libraries, etc) but also social (easy access to all friends living within five minutes of you, etc)? Second–therapy isn’t some rare and impossible thing to find in the “real world.” It can be hard based on price, insurance, all that. But here’s the thing–because of the easy access to therapists I had at Williams, I realized how important regularly seeing a therapist is to my well being. As such, I’m going to make it a part of my life after Williams, moreso than I would have had I not had such access; I’ll set aside money, perhaps choose my health insurance plan, based on making sure I can see a therapist. I’ve also learned what I benefit from in a therapist (what styles of therapy, what traits I look for in a therapist in a way for me), because I could see as many different therapists as many times as I wanted. This is going to save me a lot of money that I otherwise would have wasted out there in that “real world” trying out therapists for several sessions only to realize they aren’t as beneficial as they could be.

#12 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On June 6, 2019 @ 7:45 am

recent grad: Great comment! Thanks for the details. I will post this on the main page after our Awokening series is complete.

You have convinced me! I am now comfortable with Williams having 15 therapists on staff.