Deans agree to hire student activities intern this summer

After almost a decade of debate, the Dean’s Office has announced that it

will hire a student activities intern to work with the leaders of

student organizations in order to facilitate the planning of events and

communication on campus. Dean of the College Peter Murphy explained the

rationale behind the decision.”People have been increasingly frustrated

by the confusing way we fund events and the periodic clogging of the

calendar,” he said. “We hope that with increased attention that we can

find ways to introduce clarity and better streamline our ways.”Assistant

Dean Wanda Lee, who has been working with students and administrators on

the issue of student activities planning since her arrival this fall,

described the intern’s job.”Specifically, [the intern] will be able to

provide a consistency in terms of working directly with students on

their advancing programs so that students will have a link not only to

program planning, but to faculty and administrators.”[The interns] role

is not to tell students what to do, but to facilitate and help students

and to create a calendar which will include faculty events and those of

student groups as well.”In addition, she said she hopes that as a common

resource, the intern will help to increase communication among groups

and create a greater sense of cohesion.”I think a lot of the groups

function in isolation sometimes and don’t feel connected; this person

could hopefully facilitate that,” she said. “The idea is to create

cohesion and to really facilitate the whole idea of what community is.”

Lee said the final details of the intern’s contract have not been worked

out yet, but noted that the Dean’s office is looking for a recent

college graduate to fill the position starting this August.”We are not

ruling out recent Williams alums,” she added.Lee noted that the

suggestion to make the position experimental catalyzed its formation.

“This was always something being contemplated; what may have happened to

expedite it was the idea of the position being experimental,” Lee said.

Murphy added that college officials and student leaders have debated

whether or not there should be a student activities coordinator for

several years.”People have thought about this for a long time, back to

the middle `80s,” he said. “The most recent suggestion came from several

subcommittees of the Residential College Study (RCS) in the spring of

`95.”Murphy said the RCS committees suggested hiring a full-time

activities coordinator, but the college instead has opted for a more

experimental position.”The RCS actually suggested a full-time regular

staff position,” he said. “We have not dismissed that notion, but would

like to experiment a bit with the possibility of such a position. That

is why we have decided to try it out as an intern, with a two-year

limit.”Frank Vigorito `98, who is the chairman of the Student Activities

Council (SAC), further described the evolution of the student activities

coordinator.Vigorito noted that the student activities coordinator

addresses the same set of concerns identified by the RCS which led to

the search for more student space on campus.”Ever since I was a freshman

I have been hearing about the student center, along with the idea of the

student activities coordinator,” he said. “The problem was that the

student organizations were diffuse and had no central location, and

needed some better way of communicating with each other.”Vigorito noted

that he was initially against hiring an activities coordinator because

of fear that the person would become a “monolith.””When I first heard

about it, I envisioned someone on the administration who would say `yes

you can do this’ and would have to approve everything we do, but

Williams students like decentralization, we like eating in five

different dining halls, we don’t want a monolith running us,” he said.

Vigorito said he would be happy with an intern who “isn’t there to say

yes or no and make decisions for us, but to help support us and to help

us make decisions so we can do what we want to do.”Vigorito said after

the idea of a coordinator was considered during the RCS, it was picked

up by a group of individuals, including leaders of the College Council.

He noted that the idea was discussed at the College Council retreat at

the start of this academic year, and also has been considered recently

by the newly formed Student Leadership Advisory Council (SLAC). After

talking with College Council and SLAC members, Lee started the ball

rolling on the student activities coordinator issue earlier this year.

According to Lee, who is the administrative liason for SLAC, the group’s

function “is to provide a forum to facilitate communication, encourage

cooperation between student groups and support student leadership at

Williams.”SLAC draws its members from student leaders of organizations

such as the College Council, SAC and the Gargoyle Society.Vigorito noted

that the goals of SLAC and the creation of the student activities intern

position are somewhat similar, and said he hopes that they will serve to

complement one another in achieving a better environment for student

leaders and student organizations on campus.Vigorito cited some problems

confronting leaders of student organizations at Williams that a student

activities coordinator could alleviate.He noted, for instance, that the

leadership of organizations changes frequently and it is therefore

difficult to maintain a knowledge base and a sense of continuity.”Every

four years the history is wiped clean and there is no one who can

remember what happened five years ago,” Vigorito said. “It is important

to establish a continuity of knowledge.”Vigorito also observed that

student organizations may not receive the respect they deserve from the

administration, and the intern would provide a vital link in this

respect.”Sometimes people don’t realize that these student organizations

are really a business with a budget, ready to pay, and doing things as

important as departments or faculty members,” he said.Anita Doddi `98,

who is the secretary of MinCo and a member of SLAC, said she also would

like to see the intern tackle the issue of leadership training at

Williams.”Leadership training is really important and something we don’t

see much of,” she noted.Doddi said she hopes the intern will be a recent

Williams graduate who is familiar with the workings of the College, and

added that she envisions the position as “not really a job, but more of

a lifestyle.”College Council Co-president Amanda Cowley `98 said, “We

are very excited to have this kind of support for student groups,

especially those planning large events. I think every student on campus

will reap the benefits of this intern; those [benefits] being more,

better orchestrated, and organized events.”Josh Allen `98, who is the

president of the Doubting Club, commented on some of the ways he thinks

the coordinator would be able to help student organizations.He said the

Doubting Club typically only brings one outside lecturer to the College

each year, but added, “We have less experience, and therefore it is more

of a production when we do it.”Allen said in the past he has had

troubles keeping track of all of the details surrounding the speaker’s

visit.”It is really hard to keep track of it all,” he said. “There are

hotel reservations, meals, transportation, setting the room up, getting

audiovisual equipment, getting water… . I think ideally the way it

would work is that when a group decided they were going to bring in a

speaker, they would tell [the intern] as soon as possible, make sure

there are no conflicts, and learn about all of these things at the

outset.”