CGCL VI: A New Presidency

Professor Robert Jackall suggests that Williams is, or should be, a “cross-generational community of learning.” The purpose of the CGCL seminar (our abbreviation of Jackall’s phrase) is to realize this vision in a small but real setting. We will read and discuss the Presidential Search Prospectus and other relevant academic papers and Williams reports from the past year. Williams is about to start its first new presidency is a decade. What does the past tell us about the future?

At its origin, Williams was – literally – a college at the frontier. It is still what Williams aims to be today.

More than two hundred years ago, in the northwestern corner of America’s first revolutionary state, trustees of the will of Colonel Ephraim Williams created an academy in the wilderness. It was to be a distinctly American educational institution, respectful of church and government, but fully independent from them. Williams imagined itself, from the very start, as part of the great democratic experiment America represented, where students would be admitted not on the basis of wealth and family connections, but on the basis of what they might become, how they might contribute to the country. And like any institution with democratic impulses, and with a sense of its contingency living at the edge of a frontier, Williams must have understood from the beginning that its survival would depend on its adaptability, its willingness to change.

Class will begin in the morning and then meet asynchronously thereafter as participants comment on the work and take issue with the comments of others. For each day, a “discussant” will be responsible for posting a short commentary to start the conversation. Discussants who are already authors on EphBlog should start a new thread each day. Discussants who are not authors should e-mail their commentary to me for posting or post it on their own blogs and provide me with a link. After the discussant has posted, everyone else is invited to chime in with either comments on the underlying material or on the discussion so far. Civility should be maintained. Rude comments will be deleted.

Those curious about the style of conversation we encourage should look at our seminars from 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Links to each discussion are provided in the date.

Thursday, January 7: Presidential Search Prospectus. What did it get right (and wrong) about Williams? Discussant: Derek Charles Catsam ’93.

Friday, January 8: The evolution of major requirements at Williams. “Challenging the canon: Broadened requirement will enrich the art major” by Shelley Williamson ’10. See also this. Discussant: Parent ’12.

Monday, January 11: Interim Report of the Neighborhood Review Committee (pdf). Discussant: Lowell Jacobson ’03.

Monday, January 18: 2009 Report by the Athletics Committee (pdf). Discussant: Diana Davis ’07.

Wednesday, January 20: Williams Financial Statements are here. Make sure to read the 2008–2009 statement (pdf) and our previous discussion. Discussant: hwc.

Monday, January 25: Amherst’s 2009 Annual Report (pdf): A Cautionary Tale. Discussant: hwc.

Thursday, January 28: “Black Williams: A Written History” (doc). Discussant: Rory Kramer ’03.

Friday, January 29: An Evening with President Falk. Report from JG.



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