Currently browsing posts filed under "Anchor/Cluster Housing"

Follow this category via RSS

Next Page →

Neighborhood Reports

The College can not be trusted to maintain public copies of the reports it has made public in the past. So, the responsibility falls to EphBlog. You are welcome, future historians! Below are the most important reports regarding the failed implementation of Neighborhood Housing. There were two interim reports (part I and II) and two final reports (part I and II). The reports were written by the Neighborhood Review Committee in 2009-2010. We provided extensive discussion back in the day. Perhaps the part that is most relevant is the discussion of sophomore housing.

The best part of the Final Report (pdf) from the Neighborhood Review Committee (NRC) is its praise of sophomore housing.

It is striking to note that just over 70% of the first-year respondents believe that the College should offer sophomores the option of living in designated sophomore housing. … The committee concluded that the sophomore housing option is worthy of further study.

Read the whole thing. As best I can tell, the Committee was pro-sophomore housing but with a non-trivial minority against. Yet the central flaw of the Report in this regard was its complete failure to describe and analyze the history of sophomore housing at Williams, at least since 1990. (Useful references here and here.) Short version: Sophomores decided, on their own, that they wanted to live together in Mission. A large majority of sophomores preferred living in housing that was 90% sophomores. They achieved this goal in the early 1990s by trading their picks. Free agency arrived in 1994 and made the process more simple/fair/transparent.

Recommendation: Allow the sophomores to live together in the Berkshire Quad. The Kane Housing Plan (pdf) provides all the necessary details.

As true today as it was five years ago. The College only took a decade to realize that we were right about neighborhood housing. We knew it would be a failure and it was. How long until they come to see the benefits of sophomore housing and other changes?

Facebooktwitter

Rainbows and Sunshine

Recall ebaek’s comment on housing policy from 2010.

If we can’t even live in the same building with people who have different lifestyles and habits than us, how are we expected to create and maintain a community that’s both diverse and unified?

Even with all the hoops that the current housing system has put for the students to jump through, the little subgroups around the campus have all managed to find some kind of central housing for the members by sophomore year. As much as we would all love the school to be this place full of rainbows and sunshine where everyone knows and gets along with everyone, that would not be diversity. We should be clashing if we really all have diverse values and views– this should be the way we learn to treat people with respect and know when to compromise.

So what if the college has put some restrictions on the students to make sure that at least there is some kind of effort to gain this kind of learning around here? It’s frankly quite possible for the college to further these restrictions by, say, forcing each class to live together and assigning rooms randomly, as we had been placed here during freshmen year. I find that it is a privilege to be given the chance to pick my roommates and have a say in where I’ll be living for the next year.

And if my neighbors next years get too loud partying while I’m trying to study? I’ll just ask them to turn the volume down.

Easier said then done.

By the way, what is the current state-of-play with regard to housing for next year? Never too late to implement the Kane Plan!

Facebooktwitter

What’s Really Wrong with Housing: Statistics and More

To put it simply, I believe a closer analysis of the Neighborhood Review Committee reports will give a lot of insight into the recent actions the College has taken.

First, let’s examine the claim that “The 2009 survey data on Neighborhood housing make clear that students are dissatisfied.” That is from the Interim Report of the Neighborhood Review Committee, October 2009 [1]. This report described what the NRC found in May 2009 when they surveyed the student population. First of all, only 30% of the on-campus student body took the survey. That is not a lot. The report also says that more info was taken from past surveys, etc.

The Final Report of the Neighborhood Review Committee Part Two, April 27, 2010, notes that “[student surveys] added nuance to the most vocal complaints [about the neighborhood system]: some student dissatisfaction could be attributed to factors other than the neighborhood system and a substantial proportion of students believed the overall goals of the system were worthy” (1) [3].

The report continues, “Indeed, during the public forums of the fall, the NRC did not hear as much public criticism about the Neighborhood system as some of us imagined we would hear.

The comparative lack of criticism this academic year does not necessarily mean that the dissatisfaction had gone away or that many students were suddenly pleased with the Neighborhood system as a whole or with their individual Neighborhood. But it does suggest that what had been identified as dissatisfaction with the Neighborhoods was a complicated phenomenon” (1) [3].

Let’s take a closer look at the data to get a better understanding of these nuances. The class of 2009 was the last class to be under both the free-agency system and the neighborhood system, even though they were only in free-agency for their freshmen year. (Keep in mind that this is only the 5th year the neighborhood system has been around. It was instituted 2006-2007 [2].) They got the worst of both worlds–the un-unified freshmen experience and the lack of choice from the neighborhood system. At the time, they were randomly assigned neighborhoods, and penalized for trying to switch.
Read more

Facebooktwitter

What’s Really Wrong with the Housing System: It’s the Economy, Stupid

Hi. I’d like to use the opportunity of my first real post to introduce myself. I am Brad Polsky ’12. An Art History and Practice major, I like playing jazz and eating Italian food, amongst other things.

I am writing tonight about the housing system. If you’re reading this post, you probably already know about David Kane’s Housing Plan. If not, take a look at the posts entitled “Housing Seminars.” Dave’s plan is very detailed (18 pages long) and a good read.

However, as a student currently at Williams who is interested in the outcome of the housing debate, I cannot recommend Dave’s plan. My two main points are:

1) Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke
and
2) What may work in theory may not work well in practice.

I will then talk about what should be done to fix the current housing issues.

Everything’s Just Fine

In Dave’s executive summary, he gives a list of assumptions we have about housing. One that he neglects to include is that he assumes the housing system now is bad/inefficient/[insert other negative adjective here]. David says there is evidence for this: “students recognize this.” Which is funny, because he says a sentence later that he doesn’t know this but he’s sure that if students were polled they would surely agree with his view.

I’m not so sure about this. I live in Currier Neighborhood. I have friends in all other neighborhoods. Almost all people seem happy with their neighborhoods and houses, or, at the very least, are not miserable (I strongly agree with Dave on one goal of housing to minimize misery). One of my biggest issues with the system had been that it really locked you into your neighborhood, and you were penalized for trying to get out.

This has changed. There are no longer penalties for switching out. I know many people who have switched, to be closer to their friends, to get (in their eyes) better housing, or for other reasons. As I said, most people seem happy with the system and their individual situations, and if they are not they can easily switch.

And despite some of the neighborhoods not really being neighborhoods (i.e., Wood), the system has its own way of working. In Currier, the housing is rather homogeneous; there are no spectacular rooms or under par rooms. Dodd is acknowledged to have the worst sophomore housing, but housing junior and senior year in that neighborhood makes up for it. Spencer has Morgan (it used to have West; I’ll get to that later), and Wood has the beautiful row houses. As a Williams student in the neighborhood system gets older each year, she has a better pick of rooms in more locations. There is a logic to this system.
Read more

Facebooktwitter

Williams Housing Assumptions

I am reworking my plan for Williams Housing (pdf) and just had a genius ephiphany: the secret to creating more cohesive houses is to dramatically increase group pick sizes, not just for seniors (as discussed previously: here and here) but for everyone. Yet that is not today’s topic. For now, I would like feedback on the assumptions underlying housing at Williams.

To be clear, I am not interested in whether or not you think these assumptions are good ideas or bad ones. Instead, I want to know if you think these assumptions accurately and completely summarize the basic beliefs of the people (trustees, administrators, senior faculty) who run Williams. I think they do. But do all of the assumptions belong? Have left something out? Feedback is welcome!

The only new assumption is:

The ideal Williams House, whether a small building like Milham or a large dorm like Carter, will feature a diverse group of students who know and like each other. The prototype is the (successful) freshmen entry, featuring students from all sorts of backgrounds who enjoy discussion and activities. Any house in which the students, without any interference from the Administration, spontaneously decides to create house t-shirts, compete in broomball, field a Trivia team or create snow sculpture is a good house. Those activities, although fairly unimportant in and of themselves, indicate a cohesion and fellowship which will unavoidably generate numerous opportunities for learning and growth outside of the classroom.

I don’t particularly like the wording of this assumption. Perhaps there is a better way to phrase it? A quote from the 2005 CUL Report?

All assumptions below.
Read more

Facebooktwitter

Reviving The Sophomore Quad?

Shocking news from WSO:

Hey, so twice yesterday, from completely different people, I heard a rumor that they’re thinking about housing the entire sophomore class in Currier Quad next year. I’m just wondering if anyone knows anything about this, and/or wants to show support for this OBVIOUSLY BRILLIANT idea.

A certain math professor on the NRC told his two sections that the committee is considering anchoring housing for sophs in Currier and surrounding houses (?? @ what houses are around Currier?).

1) The only math professor on the Neighborhood Review Committee is Colin Adams.

2) Excellent idea! Needless to say, I take full credit. I first proposed organizing Williams housing by class in 2005 and created a fairly formal plan a few years later. Latest version: pdf. I have distributed this plan to various involved students and faculty in 2009. Anyone know if it played a role in these plans?

3) I would be shocked (and pleased!) if the College really acted so quickly as to do this for fall 2010. There is no good reason not to. Neighborhood Housing has failed, totally and completely. The sooner that we try something new, the better off Williams students will be. I bet that incoming President Falk would be happy to allow this change. What is the worst thing that could happen?

4) The main difficulty is where to put the rest of the sophomore class since the Berkshire Quad only has around 325 beds. Here are my thoughts (see the full plan for context):

We want the sophomore class to live together, just as they sought to live together in Mission during the era of Free Agency. We are happy to let them have large pick groups and for those pick groups to congregate to some extent, especially if that congregation is along the party/quiet dimension. The Berkshire Quad, with 332 beds, is the natural (and historical) home for the sophomore class. We might try grouping the rest of the class together as well, perhaps in Morgan (111), West (54), Spencer (25) and Brooks (28) or perhaps in Dodd and its associated houses (136). The key is that sophomores live with other sophomores. The nice thing about having most of the class in 5 largish buildings is that it still leads to extensive student mixing. Students have already met scores of their classmates in Mission and the Freshmen Quad. Now they will meet scores more. In an ideal world, you would want every sophomore to know the name of every student in her house. They might not be best buddies, but if they had shared a meal at least once during the year, that would go some distance toward providing exposure to a wide cross-section of the Williams community.

My recommendation would be the Berkshire Quad (324), Morgan (111) and West (54). The total in this plan (489) is probably a too low because there are typically around 525 sophomores in residence. Given that this is sophomore housing, the College might turn some of the singles into doubles, especially given the recent rise in enrollment. Thirty to forty sophomores will probably end up in the revived Odd Quad in Tyler/Tyler Annex. But the key is that we have at least 7 houses, each with a critical mass of students. It is almost impossible for any individual house to be dominated by one group or another.

How much freedom should sophomores have in their room draw? More than they had as first years, but less than juniors and seniors have. There is nothing wrong with the Administration insisting on the 7 houses having fair mix of all sorts of students even if the student groups themselves are self-selected. Gender capping would be reasonable. Yet allowing partiers to live next to partiers makes everyone happier. WSO plans — the computer system which showed the specific rooms everyone ahead of you in the housing lottery had selected — probably decreased the amount of intra-rooming group conflict because it allowed students to sort themselves efficiently. Currier ballroom would naturally become a central location for sophomore class social events. Driscol would become the sophomore dining hall.

If the College maintains the Neighborhood system for juniors/seniors, then we would need to give some thought to how the current residents of the Currier Neighborhood might be distributed among the three remaining neighborhoods and whether to adjust the housing/neighborhoods allocation because of the loss of Morgan and West (or wherever the extra sophomores or placed).

Comments?

UPDATE: If one of our student readers could start referring to this idea as the “Kane Plan” or the “EphBlog Plan” on WSO, that would be much appreciated. As best as I can tell (contrary claims welcome!), we were the first to publicly suggest the idea of sophomores living together by design. We need some props from our peeps!

Facebooktwitter

Cultural Thing

Few things are more fun than trolling the Record archives for housing related discussions from a decade ago.

From 1999:

In fact, in January, Dean Peter Murphy created an ad hoc committee to create possible solutions to the housing crunch. If study abroad and off-campus numbers did not register high enough, the administration knew they would be faced with a housing shortage. The committee included Dean Charlie Toomajian, McEvoy, and former College Council Co-Presidents Kate Ervin ’99 and Will Slocum ’99.

Because making random doubles seemed like it would isolate sophomores, Ervin said, they narrowed the options down to the Mission common rooms or doubles in Brooks. After much debate, both students and faculty agreed that Mission was the better option. “Generally, people want to be in singles, and generally people want to be in Mission. A big factor in enjoying your Williams experience is being in Mission,” said Ervin.

“It’s a cultural thing at Williams: this desire to live in Mission Park,” agreed McEvoy.

As I have commented many times, the sophomores class, as a whole, wanted to live together, even before the extensive renovations. They created Mission as a central housing location, first, via the mechanism of trading and then, naturally, via Free Agency. Give them a chance, and they will be just as happy (pdf) in the Berkshire Quad.

Facebooktwitter

Open Book

From the Record in January 2000:

Another “discussion starter” meeting held yesterday at the Log saw students, administrators, faculty and staff expressing strong opinions and raising difficult questions about housing issues at Williams.

Specific questions included whether the housing draw leads to stratification within the student body and whether house presidents and the co-op housing system adequately meet housing needs.

Director of Housing Tom McEvoy suggested that students’ names should not be displayed on the rooms they pick during the housing draw. McEvoy and others attested that the current process often allows a sports team or one gender or one type of student to dominate a house.

“One of the ironies of Williams housing is that the college takes great pains to create diversity in first year entries, but in the room draw that becomes less important, and I’m not sure why,” McEvoy said. “When students are taking facebooks to the housing draw, that is getting away from the spirit of what Williams is trying to do.”

Jackson Professor of Religion William Darrow described the housing process as “an open book, where everyone has the script,” the script being the displayed names at the housing draw that inform students of where different types of students choose to live.

This is among the first official mentions that I can find of a Williams official expressing concern about student self-segregation of housing. Even though, by all accounts, the same sort of thing was going on from 1995 through 2000, I can’t find anyone expressing concern. Indeed, here is a quote from McEvoy from May 1998 saying just the opposite.

McEvoy said there are no plans to change the housing process in the future, stating that a survey done by the Dean’s Office a few years ago showed satisfaction with the current system.

If there were no plans to change the system in May 1998, then how come major changes started in January 2000, just a year and a half later? Most probably answer is Morty Schapiro. Note that the same issue of the Record announced Morty’s appointment.

One could argue that this is evidence that Morty could not have had anything to do with the process, that if he was only selected in January 2000, he can’t have influenced McEvoy and Darrow that same month. Morty would not actually assume the presidency until July 1, 2000. But I can’t find any evidence that then-interim President Carl Vogt was at all concerned with the issue, so I don’t think that the impetus came from him. Moreover, Morty was certainly interviewing with the trustees, learning about the campus in the fall of 1999. So, he could easily have come up to speed on this issue and, perhaps in conjunction with conversations with the trustees, suggested that officials like McEvoy and Darrow start looking at the problem right away.

Anyway, this is just the sort of Williams history trivia that EphBlog thrives on. Perhaps it had nothing to do with Morty. Perhaps self-segregation got much worse, or more noticeable, between 1998 and 2000. Whose idea was it to discuss housing self-segregation at this meeting?

UPDATE: A draft version of this post appeared earlier by mistake.

UPDATE II: Exchanged e-mails with Darrow and McEvoy. Although it was all a decade ago, it sure seems that this had nothing to do with Morty. Instead, it represented a sort of bubbling up process based on concerns from lots of people.

Facebooktwitter

Little Africa

Brian Shepherd on the neighborhood system.

While I myself am passionate about changing the residential life system (housing and events) into something better, I am under the impression that the campus as a whole is fairly indifferent on the subject. There are changes in the workings that will effect the lives of Williams students for years to come, but 30% of students took the time to fill out the simple survey online and less than 10% cared to appear at the forum last night. There are a handful of students who want to see more and more diverse events on campus. There are a handful of students who want to prevent anomalies like “Little Africa” and “The Odd Quad” from reappearing on campus. But most people, it seems, don’t think those issues matter enough to exert any sort of effort into them instead of studying, playing sports, or even just chilling with friends. You don’t see an increase in the number of people asking Cosponsorship for money for events. You don’t see people actively living with people outside of their in-group. Should we really be trying to please this small group of people who can hardly agree amongst themselves?

To those who want to see the neighborhood system abolished outright, I’m halfway with you, but what is going to take its place? Quit screaming for change if you don’t have an alternative.

1) Here (pdf) is the best alternative. New draft coming soon! Does anyone want to work with me on it?

2) The phrase “Odd Quad” has been used at Williams for more than 25 years. I have never heard of “Little Africa.” Has anyone else? What is the reference? During free agency, there was often an African-American house — meaning a row house that was almost complete African American — although we have never heard the details. What house was it? Was it the same house every year? A student also described to me all the (black) Jamaican students living together in Prospect. Is that the “Little Africa” reference?

Facebooktwitter

Best way to create room-draw drama

From Dave Moore on WSO:
Possible fun extension: remove the randomness from room draw, and instead have groups pick in order of decreasing average GPA of the group members. Think of all the hilarious drama that would cause in the group-forming process.

…..said the new Phi Beta Kappa member. ;D

Facebooktwitter

WSO Plans

It is impossible to understand the present state of Williams housing without studying the past. Consider this Record article by Drew Newman ’04 from April 2002.

In past years, students could log onto the Williams Students Online (WSO) website to see the names of students who had picked into rooms in real time throughout the room draw process. However, WSO was asked by the administration not to post the room draw results online this year. Instead, the names of students who have picked into rooms will only be posted inside the Mission Park Lounges where the room draw takes place.

According to last Wednesday’s CC minutes, the WSO representatives said the administration “made it quite clear that somebody will be punished if they try to get around [the prohibition of online room draw posting] in any way.”

1) For more background reading, here is some history from David Ramos ’00 (here) and Josh Ain ’03 (here). Highly recommended. More comments below:
Read more

Facebooktwitter

Report on NRC Forum

Were any readers at the forum tonight on the Neighborhood Review Committee? Tell us about it. Will Slack ’11 reports (second-hand):

Seems to have gone well, with a diversity of viewpoints expressed and Baxter Hall full of onlookers.

More details, please. Did the “diversity” of viewpoints include folks who thought that Neighborhoods were a success?

Facebooktwitter

Aftermath of the Infestation …

aftermath copy
In the tradition of the Dust Bowl photography project and some of its’ techniques.
http://morris.blogs.nytimes.com/category/the-case-of-the-inappropriate-alarm-clock/

Facebooktwitter

Report effects many …

Neigh final

Facebooktwitter

“Do you bite your thumb at me , sir?” Redux …

Palio copy

Although with somewhat more restraint than we did previously, Sir. For our proud neighborhood may be disbanded and these our citizens reconfigured in to yet another amalgam.

So please accept, perhaps good new co-habitant, that we are simply sucking our thumb at you.

(exeunt)

(original post on 22 November, 2008. With far more incisor showing)

Facebooktwitter

Failures of the 2002 and 2005 CUL

Jonathan Landsman ’05 provided, in 2005, this brilliant summary and critique of the 2002 CUL.

One of the more sideline shames of the campus life tinkering this time around is the concurrent acknowledgment that the restrictions put in force in 2002 have not achieved anything of meaningful merit. What I refer to is:

* Gender capping of houses at 60%
* Reduction of pick sizes from 7 to 4
* Creation of blind room draw, where names are no longer allowed to be posted on WSO or on the physical posters in the pick room

Back in 2002, the CUL published a report that gave their recommendations in great detail, and was scant in two other departments: 1) presenting the evidence they believed supported their recommendations, and 2) presenting a set of goals whose attainment would measure the success or failure of their recommendations.

Without these “features,” which would have been standard in any serious study of any kind in any academic field, an review of the CUL’s data by anyone outside of the CUL was impossible, and judgment of whether their recommendations would serve their goals equally impossible, as there could be no common understanding of what those goals were. Some thought it was to achieve racial house diversity, some gender, some diversity by extracurricular affiliation (especially sports teams), some all of the above. The CUL, at the time, was clearer about what it was trying to avoid than what it was trying to promote: “We don’t like themed housing.” “It is ridiculous that this house is overwhelmingly male” “Some houses have taken on a cross-year character, this is bad.”

They also made an appeal to authority, which you are likely to hear again: “We have studied this extensively for 3 years . . .” hence, and we won’t say it in so many words, but we really do know better than you.

If the CUL wishes to claim to have conducted a study of campus life at Williams, I hope they intend to publish a study this time. It should include:

* As extensively as they can, a presentation of all their data and reasoning from it, whether that data be anecdotal or numerical, from Williams or from other schools.
* An unambiguous statement of what aspects of life are intended to be improved on this campus.
* A statement of when the CUL will be ready and willing to hold their new system to these standards. If they have been found to have failed, they must be met with the same recommendation for abandonment that the CUL gives to our current system of housing.

CUL’s Report and Recommendations of 2002

Reading that 2002 CUL Report is an interesting trip down failure lane. Its main recommendations (changing room draw and starting an Office of Campus Life) have not achieved any of its purported goals. Of course, the 2005 CUL claimed that they were not going to make those mistakes.

Noah Smith-Drelich ’07, the leading public face of CUL in his era, replied to Landsman:

To begin with, your suggestions and criticisms are fantastic. This CUL will definitely be careful not to make the same mistakes the 2002 CUL made in their proposal. You’re correct in noting the importance of defining clear criteria for success and failure which can be used in judging and forming any residential system in the years to come.

Despite demands and suggestions from many observers, the 2005 CUL never provided “clear criteria for success and failure which c[ould] be used in judging and forming any residential system in the years to come.” Think that this is just 2009 quarterbacking on my part? Recall what Anchors Away wrote in 2005:

The third major omission of the CUL Report is that it provides no discussion of how we are to evaluate the success or failure of anchor housing in the years to come. Even those who are strongly in favor of anchor housing — who do not feel it is necessary to closely consider the experiences of other schools or the special status of the Odd Quad — should be in favor of listing the standards by which we should judge anchor housing five or ten years from now. Unfortunately, a failure to specify such standards is quite consistent with CUL’s behavior 3 years ago.

See the rest of the letter for details. In fact, it is more-or-less a copy of this post! We concluded:

Assume that anchor housing is implemented. Five years pass. Should Williams declare victory or should we return to free agency? The CUL needs to tell us now what the standards for judgment should be then. Without this guidance, it will be impossible to know whether or not anchor housing has been successful, whether or not the trade-offs involved have been worth it.

The Trustees were not impressed with our arguments in 2005. Neither were Morty nor Dean Roseman nor Professor Dudley. All were sent copies of our letter.

Here we are, almost 5 years later, and there is no easy way for the Williams community to judge, even using the standards of the 2005 CUL, whether or not Neighborhoods have been a success.

Was this incompetence? Note that no one on CUL faces any meaningful sanctions for failure. Was it a cynical attempt to force through Neighborhood Housing and not provide future critics with any grounds for complaint? I don’t know.

Perhaps the Trustees might talk about the lessons that Williams has learned from this ten year journey at their meeting today . . .

Facebooktwitter

Neighborhood Review Commitee Interim Report

The Neighborhood Review Committee has issued its Interim Report (pdf). Record coverage here. Don’t want to read a thousand words from me on this topic? No worries! Summary:

I told you so! The Neighborhood System has failed, in just the way that I (and others) predicted it would. Students don’t care about their neighborhoods, and never will. They are angry that they can’t live with their friends. The obvious solution is my Vision for Williams Housing. Put sophomores in the Berkshire Quad, juniors in Greylock and allow large groups of seniors to pick into entire row houses. Allow free agency within those constraints. Bring back WSO plans to allow sorting along the loud/quiet dimension.

Details below.
Read more

Facebooktwitter

Ideal Neighborhoods

I recently took my brother off to college. That process was strange for me – I’m used to being the one coming and going from far-away states, but now I had to help him move into an experience that I won’t be a large part of. I certianly understand a little more about how my parents felt leaving me in the Purple Valley. But I digress.

The Residential College system in place at his university is actually in place at a wide range of higher-ed institutions. Students are randomly assigned to a house/college, then completely indoctrinated during their first week such that almost no one applies for a transfer. Each house/college also has it’s own eating area and performance space, though students are free to eat anywhere on campus.

I was struck by how much the colleges were their own units, each with a different reputation and different crazy rituals, and there’s a lot to like in this sort of program. However, the University also has physical infrastructure much better suited than Williams’s to this sort of cohesion.

As the Neighborhood Review Committee continues its work this year, let’s remember that people approach this question and debate from a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds. Reading about the benefits of such a system is markedly different than seeing them in action.

What are some programs or ideas you’ve seen in place at other schools that Williams should shamelessly steal?

I was also amused when their President, during his remarks, asked all of the assembled parents to shake each others’ hands in congratulations for raising such wonderful children.

Facebooktwitter

A Vision for Williams Housing

Are you the sort of person who has read 111 posts on Neighborhood Housing and still wants more? Have you been waiting for over 4 years for an update to my Vision for Williams Housing?

This pdf is for you.

Summary: Given some standard assumptions about Williams housing (entry system is sacred, 1/2 of juniors and 1/3 of seniors do something special (JA, abroad, co-ops, off-campus), no major constructions projects), Neighborhood identity is a fantasy. Given that, the best housing system would focus on the academic class, grouping sophomores (Berkshire Quad), juniors (Greylock) and seniors (row houses) together. A modified free agency is, therefore, the best possible housing system.

Facebooktwitter

Spencer Neighborhood Website

The website for Spencer Neighborhood is charming.

spencer

With luck, Spencer Neighborhood will disappear in a few years, along with the rest of the wretched Neighborhood System. So, for future historians, I have saved a copy of the website above.

Minor note: The entries that feed into Spencer next year will be:


Spencer Entries 2009-2010
All of Armstrong
All of Pratt
Mills-Dennett 1

In past years, the entries have been a scattered from all over freshmen housing, instead of grouped in this sensible fashion. Didn’t someone smart suggest this two years ago? But not, alas, so smart that he can find the link to prove it . . .

Facebooktwitter

On CC and the rest of Sunday

CC tabled at dining halls last Thursday to get information about the programs and departments they valued most. There were about 12-14 items on the sheet, which students could rank. The e-mail announcing the tabling also had a link to an electronic poll.

Also, CC has just appointed the four student members of the Neighborhood Review Committee, which will begin meeting this week. Take it to mean what you will, but most positions on committees aren’t incredibly selective, and CC had to turn down some great applicants. I hope that all students can contribute to this review, even if they, like me, did not apply.

Last, anyone who read my writ from Sunday morning can add an incredibly deep and soulful conversation that helped me discover new aspects of myself, catching up with a friend from last semester, watching several old episodes of a TV show on Hulu, attending the largest gathering of the Feast that I can remember, making cards to send to faculty members about Take Back The Night, helping out at the climbing wall, showing a piece to other musicians so that we could collaborate on performing it in two weeks, writing a song about Spring Break, and figuring out the details of a new project that I feel pretty good about. So that’s 66 hours at Williams for you.

For the letter from CC, click Read more

Facebooktwitter

Neighborhood Review Committee

A Neighborhood Review Committee will be formed to consider the Neighborhood System (originally termed the Motherhood and Apple Pie House System by former CUL chair Professor Will Dudley ’89). Below is an e-mail seeking student self-nominations along with background information. Also, see this Record article and editorial.

Do I have another 100+ posts worth of commentary on this issue? Probably! Contain your excitement. For now, let me give some advice to the students who want to serve on the Committee.

First, don’t talk about EphBlog. No one will be impressed with your encyclopedic knowledge of our discussions over the last 4 years.

Second, read the 2002 and 2005 CUL Reports on housing. (Feel free to check out my commentary on the 2005 report. If you like my humor, you’ll love it!)

Third, in your self-nomination, accomplish two things: a) Prove that you have read these reports by quoting from them, and b) Claim that you have an open mind on the topic, even if (especially if!) you agree with me that Neighborhood Housing has been a failure and that we need to move toward a system which respects and harnesses student preferences.

Doing those two things will set you apart from most other applicants. Once you are on the Committee, I will explain what needs to be done. Good luck!

Read more

Facebooktwitter

Pockets of Success

Jonathan Landsman ’05 (the Will Slack ’11 of his generation) writes:

I’ve read about Dodd’s success this year and I think it’s great. Astounding, actually, and you can’t take anything away from the leaders this year. May I guess, though, that many of them were socially bound before this year? In other words, that for whatever reason a group of friends is largely running the house? There is nothing wrong with that! But if so, the success is ephemeral . . . we do have to see if the culture there sustains, or if it turns over depending on who is “elected” and how much those people feel like it’s worth investing in the neighborhood versus basically giving up. When you are socially programming with and for friends, it is different—we saw the same pockets of success in the old House Coordinator system, especially in the Odd Quad and other houses where a house was full of residents who knew each other and the HC personally before the year began. It didn’t mean that house was “building community” that would last past that one year.

Exactly correct.

1) Is Jonathan correct about Dodd? Another explanation is that Dodd just got very lucky with its first leaders and that this led to a culture of success in programming.

2) Assuming Jonathan is correct, we want to ensure that people with a desire to throw parties have the means to do so. Best way to do that is to fill the each row house with a self-selected group of seniors who are friends with each other. Make sure to place the biggest parties in the houses that make party throwing easiest. Initial thoughts here. And, yes, a new draft of my Vision for Williams Housing in the works. Harness your eagerness.

Facebooktwitter

Declining Percent

The evaluation of Neighborhood Housing scheduled for next year will provide an excuse for numerous trips down memory lane. Who remembers Joe Schoer’s ’06 great notes on one of Professor Will Dudley’s presentations? I missed this part four years ago.

Will this affect admissions to the College?

No. {Dudley then draws a comparison with Yale}. We’re “not trying to imitate” other schools. Here’s some data that we need to improve: a greater percent of students say they decline admission because of Williams social life. A declining percent of graduating seniors say Williams has an excellent social life.

Needless to say, Professor Dudley refused to make the data underlying that remark available to the wider community. (Related topic rant here.) It is impossible for us to fairly evaluate the success (read: failure) of neighborhoods without access to the data.

I have no doubt that Dudley, an honest guy and fellow philosopher major 20 years ago, was telling the truth. Seniors in 2005 were less happy than seniors in 2000 because the College had screwed up housing with a serious of “improvements”: decreasing group size, ending WSO plans, enforcing gender caps, Office of Campus Life and so on. An honest look at the data would probably show that student satisfaction with social life reached a recent peak around 1999. That’s why administrators like Dudley won’t let the rest of us see the data.

Facebooktwitter

A Neighborhood Success Story

A look at the “Sponsored By” tag on many event posters reveals Dodd Neighborhood, which has stood out this year as a major social force on campus. What does Dodd’s success mean? WSO provides this quote:

It seems that while, in theory, the idea of having neighborhoods (and therefore more “hands in the pot”) would allow a broader variety of events, in practice, we’ve only seen one strong neighborhood emerge each year. This seems to lend itself to the “our neighborhood doesn’t do anything” kind of mentality (even when this may be true, there are often underlying causes, as alluded to in an earlier post, causing the problem), which really isn’t a positive thing for the campus as a whole…no matter which way you spin it.

Is Dodd representative of the neighborhood system’s potential and future, or an aberration? I’m uncertain enough to withhold my own opinion, but the question is vital. Follow the jump for a list of their activities provided by the NGB, but be warned: it’s long.
Read more

Facebooktwitter

Plus Ca Annex

Although Neighborhood Housing has failed in almost all the ways that I (and many others) predicted it would, Morty could at least take comfort in the fact that it has ended student self-segregation. Consider this Record article from 2002:

Ho believes the CUL and the College have failed in their attempt to diversify residential life on campus. In fact, he believes the College has added to the problem of certain houses being occupied by individuals bound together by a specific identity like a common culture or membership on a sports team. He identified Tyler Annex and the Dodd House as examples of this problem. Tyler Annex houses mostly athletes, while Dodd House houses a large number of the College’s minority population.

When Morty first arrived at Williams, he was dismayed at student self-segregation. It reminded him of the “theme” housing he had seen as a graduate student at Penn in the 1970s. He decided to end self-segregation, especially of African-American students, but also of athletes, mainly the male helmet-sport athletes who dominated Tyler and Tyler Annex.

But now even this success is falling apart. Athletes, especially male helmet-sport athletes, have taken over Tyler Annex and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Tyler. (Confirmation from current students is welcome.) How did they do this given that the College goes to such great lengths to split up, say, the hockey team into four neighborhoods? Here is the story that I heard:

1) Pulling in people. If you have four hockey players already in Dodd Neighborhood, you can pull in a fifth.

2) Transferring out as a group. If you have four hockey playing buddies, you can apply for a neighborhood switch as a group even if you all live in different neighborhoods. (Rules have changed this year and, judging from Record coverage, there will probably be much more self-segregation next year.) Because Dodd is the least popular of the four neighborhoods, it has the most people trying to transfer out, so your group has a better than 1 in 4 chance of getting in. (I also think that you can/could specify that you wanted out of whatever neighborhoods you were in. Since everyone in your group comes from someplace besides Dodd, you are much more likely to get Dodd even though you can’t express a preference.)

3) Picking a part of Dodd that is the least popular and, therefore, the easiest to dominate.

And this is more or less what happened in the mid 1990s when student self-segregation first appeared on the Williams scene. (Someone told the story of the epic fight between athletes and odd-quad-types for the soul of Tyler from that era, but I can’t find the link.)

So, after 9 years, the main thing that Morty has accomplished with campus housing that is not an obvious negative is to ensure that the black students are spread out like pepper in a salt shaker. (Extra credit for identifying the Eph author of that analogy.) Well done!

Facebooktwitter

Neighborhood Woes

I am shocked, shocked that Neighborhood identity continues to be a figment of the Administration’s imagination.

When the neighborhood housing system was first implemented, the question was not whether current students would like it – they didn’t – but whether future generations would benefit socially and come to appreciate it. It is now in its third year, and the administration must be wondering how the current generation of students is dealing with it and whether we have begun to warm up to the system. After all, it’s been over two years. Has our opinion of the system changed?

To put it bluntly, it hasn’t. It was often said during the initial controversy that the furor over the new housing system would disappear in four years when the people who remembered the old system graduated. Now that we’re in our third year of neighborhood housing, this seems to be wrong.

Well, there are two separate issues. First, would students forget the details of the controversy, the history of how we got to today? Answer, as Andrew Triska’s ’10 later comments make clear, is Yes. Students do forget. Second, would students grow to love or at least not-hate the Neighborhood system? Triska is correct that the answer to that is No.

Even students who didn’t live under the old system – myself included – think the new system is a mistake. Even the freshmen have opinions on the issue, and those opinions are generally negative. You can’t implement a system that’s opposed by a majority of students and expect new generations of students to welcome it. Students who didn’t have housing choice can still imagine what it would be like, and it’s an enticing idea.

Indeed. During his talk at Foxborough last March, Morty (wistfully?) quoted a statistic about student opposition to the elimination of fraternities 45 years ago and student opposition to the ending of free agency. He implied that future generations would look as kindly on his overruling of student opinion today as we look upon Jack Sawyer’s ’39 leadership in the early 1960s.

Unlikely!

Morty, as an economist, may not give history the weight it deserves. Recall the Terrible 22, and the Administration’s (Morty’s?) misleading description of that history to impressionable Ephs like Jonathan Landsman ’05. The fight against fraternities was led by the students. (Does Morty know that history?) Sawyer’s genius was not so much in overruling student (and alumni!) opinion as in harnessing it. He didn’t eliminate fraternities, he allowed the Williams community to make the decision for itself. Morty’s single biggest mistake in trying to improve student life was his failure to create the equivalent of the Angevine Committee.

More quotes and ranting below.
Read more

Facebooktwitter

Kudos

When things go wrong, we are quick to criticize the administration, the social systems, and even the students. Too often, we say nary a word when things go right. A weekend ago, it was both Halloween and Homecoming, yet everything seems to have gone very smoothly, in sharp contrast to the problems of the fall of 2007. Kudos.

The following are condensed versions of two articles that appeared in the Record.

Homecoming celebrations go off without a hitch

By Elleree Erdos – Staff Writer (Record)

Event organizers began and ended Homecoming weekend in celebratory fashion, hosting a number of concerts and themed parties without glitches. Party planners were pleased with the turnout at events in celebration of both Halloween and Homecoming.

ACE took charge of Friday night’s lineup, starting the night off with a concert in Lasell, featuring hip-hop artist Charles Hamilton and Grammy Award-winner Rhymefest….

Halloween-themed events followed the concert, beginning with a Freaky Friday dance in Goodrich from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. and the Late Night Thriller party in Brooks from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m….

During the day on Saturday, the neighborhoods held a Cluster Cup tailgate competition, which Spencer won with its spread of KFC chicken and biscuits, homemade caramel, white chocolate and chocolate-dipped mini apples, cookies, chips and dip, mini molten lava cakes and cheesecakes.

“In my opinion, the weekend couldn’t have gone smoother,” said Franny Barrett ’12, the Wood Neighborhood social chair. The neighborhoods hosted two parties on Saturday night following the football game: the Masquerade Ball in Goodrich featuring DJs Dirty Deeds and D-Lo and the Late Night Trick or Treat in Prospect Basement.

This year all four neighborhoods sponsored both of Saturday’s events. Instead of having simultaneous parties, the events were staggered throughout the night to allow for greater turnout. “The Late Night Trick or Treat gave people something to do until 3 a.m., so a lot more people stayed out later,” said Ali Barrett ’09, ACE president….

Weekend sees few incidents, damages

By Yue-Yi Hwa – News Editor (Record)

College staff have declared last Saturday’s Homecoming a victory off the field as well: neither Facilities nor Campus Safety and Security noted any hiccups despite the crowd of over 2500 and numerous all-campus parties.

“From our point of view, this weekend was amazing,” said Bea Miles, director for Facilities. According to Miles, the only billable incident this weekend was in Tyler Annex. “They broke a chair and had a bio-cleanup,” she said, adding that there were brownies scattered around the area.

Miles also noted that kitchens in dorms were slightly messy Monday morning as students had done a lot of cooking over the weekend, but “it’s nothing we’ll complain about.”

 …“Overall we would like to thank the campus for a wonderful weekend,” she said.

Jean Thorndike, directory of Security, also offered a positive assessment. “The weekend went smoothly and there weren’t any major security issues,” she said. “It was relatively uneventful and the calls we handled were similar to incidents that occur on a regular basis.”

Thorndike added that none of the incidents stood out as significant or specifically related to Homecoming. “During past Homecomings, there was usually more activity on campus,” she said, noting the difficulty of comparing Homecoming weekends “because every other year we host Amherst.”

Kyle Johnson, Williamstown Police Department (WPD) chief, agreed that the weekend had been quiet and uneventful. “This has become the norm since the alcohol policy at the football game has changed,” he said, noting that he was only aware of one summons for an alcohol violation and no arrests.

On Saturday, two WPD officers had been assigned to patrol and four more were on duty at the football game. That evening, three officers were on patrol and two additional officers were assigned to the event at Eastlawn Cemetery….

Facebooktwitter

Party Rules

A student writes in with the rules for campus parties. Full e-mail below the break. Comments:

1) Thanks! We love to preserve these details for future historians. Can someone explain the meaning of “host” and “server” in this context?

2) The rules seem not dissimilar from what I remember in the mid-80’s, especially the requirements to have some non-alcoholic drinks and food.

3) As much fun as I like to make of Campus Life, the job of regulating parties is not an easy one. What rules would you suggest?

4) Want to improve the party scene at Williams? I have an easy solution! Do a better job of matching Ephs who like to throw parties with housing that makes throwing parties easy. (There is nothing wrong with social engineering as long as it is done intelligently.)

Williams has a variety of houses that make for great parties. (What buildings would you include on this list? I need to be specific for my future Record op-ed on the topic.) Right now, we make no effort to ensure that the students living in those houses want to throw parties. That is a huge waste of resources. Solve this mismatch with a mechanism similar to the JA Selection Committee.

First, remove three (5?) houses from the general pool (some will be co-ops and some not). These are “Party Houses,” designed for students who make a credible commitment to throw lots of parties and, thereby, improve the social scene at Williams. Prior to the co-op process, allow groups of seniors to “apply” to these houses. The groups would be large enough to fill the target house and would be restricted to seniors. (Throw in diversity requirements if you like.) A student committee would then select the winners. Losers would then be able to participate in the co-op process and regular housing draw.

Winners would be chosen on the basis of their credible commitment to throw parties. A student selection committee would be an excellent, although not perfect, judge of that commitment. Heavily involvement in organizing/throwing parties in your Neighborhood or your entry would be key credentials.

Losers in this process would be quiet students who a) Don’t want to throw parties or b) Can’t credibly claim that they would throw parties. Their housing options would be (slightly) more limited in this scenario.

Comments welcome, especially on what houses to include in the plan and what counter-arguments I need to consider.
Read more

Facebooktwitter

Nothing To Do

Neighborhoods are a doomed to failure.

So it has come to my attention that there has been a serious lack of neighborhood-run events or I guess to make it more specific, Currier Cluster (since I am not in any other cluster..) events on campus. All I’ve heard about this year is a Cougar that needs to be named.. did we ever vote for a cougar in the first place?? Whose even on the NGB? None of the websites are updated.. I am still listed as Historian for Currier Cluster on the Williams Neighborhood Page. I don’t even know who to email to complain. So I thought I’d procrastinate on my lab report and try out this whole WSO discussion thing. What are we doing with all of the Neighborhood funds? I remember having neighborhood events going on every weekend. What happened to the good ol’ days, eh? I vote something happens soon. This campus is too small to have nothing to do.

Background here. Three years ago I (correctly!) predicted that entries would be associated with clusters despite initial promises to the contrary. I also worried about the implications for co-ops.

The real problem for co-ops in the context of anchor housing is not what happens in the first few years. The real problems come later. Five years from now, if [when! — ed.] cluster housing is implemented and when all current students have forgotten life under free agency, it will be clear (to those with eyes to see) that anchor housing has failed. There will be no meaningful cluster identity. Students will be no more a part of the Tyler cluster in 2010 than they are part of Tyler house in 2005.

Check. And two years early! (Historians will recall that the original plan included a Tyler cluster.) Going back to May, 2005:

At that point, the social engineers of CUL, to the extent that they are even willing to admit that there is a problem, will be perplexed. Having built this great new system, why have the students not rallied to it? Why aren’t they attending the great intra-cluster public speaking competitions? The reason, CUL will see, is that students do not care about their clusters. Students will not see clusters as an important part of the social fabric of Williams. Students, five years from now, will care about their friends, they will care about their activities, they may care about their class. (The decrease of class identity will be one of the biggest hidden costs of the end of free agency.) Students will not care about their cluster.

And so, what will CUL do? CUL will (correctly!) recognize what we have pointed out time and again. Clusters can not work at a Williams at which 1/2 of the juniors/seniors live outside of them. No meaningful cluster identity can possibly develop with this much turnover. As long as Williams allows juniors to JA/study abroard and seniors to live in co-ops/off-campus, there will be no cluster identity.

At that point, the forces of righteousness will urge CUL to go back to free agency, to consider a housing plan that makes a virtue of the turmoil of junior year and the desire of independence in senior year rather than fighting against them.

But I suspect that the powers-that-be at the CUL/Administration will be unlikely to go that route. Instead, they will try to invigorate clusters by drawing seniors back into them. This may, perhaps, occur via a major building program, a la Middlebury. But it will also involve the death, or at least dismemberment, of co-ops as they are known today.

With current endowment losses, there is no way that the College will embark on a major building program. Will CUL try to kill co-ops? Probably not this year and, I hope, never. Eternal vigilance is the price we must pay for unique senior housing.

The sooner we get rid of Neighborhoods, the better. New draft of my vision for Williams housing is coming soon. Thank you Will Dudley!

Facebooktwitter

Next Page →

Currently browsing posts filed under "Anchor/Cluster Housing"

Follow this category via RSS