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MinCo Replies to Falk III

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 3.

President Falk responded in the Record. Worst part:

How can we be the inclusive, welcoming place we want to be – and increasingly are – if the images and stories that surround our students, faculty and staff are largely from a time when so many of them wouldn’t have been welcome here?

I dislike the trope of “Williams was an evil nasty place until me and my friends showed up.” Is that really true? My importantly, will Ephs 50 years from now judge the Williams of 2015 as more welcoming than the Williams of 1985 or 1955 or 1925? I have my doubts. Read “Black Williams: A Written History.” Some students (and faculty?) feel disaffected from Williams today. The same has always been true. The same will always be true.

Most interesting part:

Here’s what I imagine to be a logical set of outcomes: The committee may determine that some historical representations on campus ought to be left as they are, that some ought to be removed or altered or that some ought to be added to, perhaps with historical context or commentary.

Where can we find a list of “historical representations” that the Merrill Committee is likely to consider? In all honesty, other than the painting at The Log, I have trouble coming up with anything even remotely controversial. Ideas from our readers?

Best part:

At Williams, committees are often the places where ideas are born and where decisions are made. It was the alumni-and-student Angevine Committee appointed by President Jack Sawyer that spent a year considering fraternities and in 1962 came to the conclusion that they needed to go. And it was the Committee on Coordinate Education that recommended enrolling women, a recommendation adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1969.

Exactly right, and exactly what EphBlog told you yesterday. EphBlog and Adam Falk, in agreement once again! However:

1) The Committee on Coordinate Education is a lousy example because it was never going to decide anything other than to admit women. Every elite school did the same. Any elite school that didn’t would have become unpopular.

2) The Angevine Committee is a great example (read the details on Wikipedia) because eliminating fraternities was a radical choice that most peer schools refused to do. That was real change.

3) Another good recent example is the MacDonald Report which led to a significant decline in the admissions preferences given to athletes.

4) Anchor Housing (the Dudley Committee?) is an example of major change coming out of the committee system. Alas, it was a total failure, as EphBlog predicted.

Big picture: Falk is correct to claim that change comes via committee. MinCo is foolish to pass on this opportunity to put its fellow travelers in positions of (some) power. Getting a seat at the table is the first step in social change at Williams.

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MinCo Replies to Falk II

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 2.

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.

Williams professors should bow their heads in shame that actual Williams students would write such incoherent prose. Or would some of our readers like to defend “indicated our capacity” or “have decided to directly address you, the student body, to inform you” as good examples of the King’s English?

Here is the editing that Professor Steve Fix might suggest.

In a recent email to the all-student listserv, President Falk wants 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.

Why write 93 words when 26 will do? But let’s leave aside the weak writing and move on to the suspect reasoning.

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

Arrghh! The writing is so bad! I can barely see the substance. I think (hope!) that “conversations” should be singular. Couldn’t the author proofread an all-campus e-mail? Is this some sort of pomo nonsense of which I am sadly unaware?

Anyway, bureaucracy is how bureaucracies change. Don’t these students know the history of Williams. Virtually every major change has involved a committee of some sort. Now, of course, not every committee results in change and there are some (very isolated) examples of change outside the committee structure. But, if you really want to change things like murals at The Log, then the Merrill Committee is a perfect place to start. Get some fighters on the committee and you have a chance. Unless you think that some students are so committed to the sacred cause of Non Problematic Murals that they are willing to take over buildings or go on hunger strikes, a committee is your only hope.

[W]e 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.

There may be a fair point here. Smart presidents consult far and wide before they create committees, precisely to avoid these sorts of process complaints. Once Falk decided there was going to be a committee, he should have had Keli Gail talk to any faculty member even tangentially connected to the issue. Maybe Falk entrusted the matter to Karen Merrill and she messed up? More likely, I suspect, is that these students are clueless.

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 is evidence of cluelessness. Unless the students know, for a fact, that Kiel (or someone like him) would serve on the committee if asked, they have no business wordily complaining about a lack of “necessary, relevant, and expert voices.” Who would they suggest?

kielI suspect that there is some backstory here. Karen Merrill is smart! She knew that part of this discussion would center around Native American issues. She knew that Kiel was one (perhaps the only?) member of the Williams faculty with a relevant background. She is in Kiel’s department! Why wouldn’t she ask him?

Perhaps she was doing him a favor. Kiel is untenured! He should be spending every spare minute writing. Committee service is limited upside and unlimited downside. There could also be other stuff going on. Is Kiel going on leave? Has his appointment been renewed? And so on.

By the way, here is Kiel’s Linked In page and Twitter. Is he Native American? Does he look Native American to you? Is his ancestry — as opposed to his knowledge — relevant to whether or not he should serve on the committee? Excellent questions all!

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MinCo Replies to Falk I

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.

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