First year entry diversity subject of faculty committee

Members of the Committee for Diversity and Community Diversity (CCD) recently voiced their concern that there is a lack of diversity in some First-year entries.

According to Professor of Music Jennifer Bloxam, it was the student members of the CDC who raised these concerns about First-year entries. These students then spoke with Thomas McEvoy, Director of Housing. Bloxam said they discussed, “ways to ensure that all entries reflect the diversity of the Williams student body.”

In defining diversity, Bloxam and McEvoy said the school takes into account ethnicity, gender, geography, socio-economic background, religious affiliations, physical capabilities and sexual orientation.

McEvoy and Bloxam said a lack of diversity may prevent students from being able to socialize with different people within their entries and this socialization is an important learning experience.

To Bloxam, the ideal first-year entry would, “bring people with compatible living habits together, and second, fairly reflect the diversity of the Williams student body.”

Bloxam said she does not see a lack of diversity among the entries. She described the entries as having, “a very healthy mix of students from different cultural, geographical, and socio-economic backgrounds, and a good balance of men and women.” Bloxam did admit, though, that this year there are some entries which have either a “smaller or greater minority student presence than in the class as a whole.”

Junior Advisor Doug Cohan disagrees with Bloxam. “I don’t think the majority of entries are all that diverse, certainly not to the level the college prides itself on generally,” said Cohan. He said this lack of diversity could have a detrimental effect on the students. “I think that part of the reason that people come to Williams and go to college in general is to experience new things and when entries are homogeneous that hurts students.”

David Erickson, co-president of the JAs, does not see a lack of diversity in entries as a big problem. “It simply doesn’t matter what the person is, it just matters who they are,” Erickson said. The ideal, according to Erickson, would be to have an entry consisting of students from all different backgrounds. He did say, though, he has noticed some entries seem to be extremely diverse whereas others appear less diverse, but he said he was not sure whether or not this was just a “matter of perception.”

Student opinion concerning diversity within the entries also varies. Janna Rearick ’02 commented that she does not see diversity in the entries as a problem, but, “The school itself isn’t very diverse.” Rearick said that the school does a, “fine job of setting up the entries. Activities, etc. all balance out somehow.”

Eva Kwok ’02 said she thinks the diversity in the entries should go beyond race, gender, and geography to include, “socio-economic background, religion, hobbies, and academic interest.” She admits that this would mean extra time and effort in setting up housing, but she thinks that it would be worthwhile.

Laura Bennett ’02 complained sometimes diversifying the entries in many different ways causes problems. She said although she loves her entry, she thinks the college should take whether or not people like to drink into account when setting up the entries because mixing people together who do and do not “party” can actually fracture the entry into two groups with “little overlap.” She said she thinks that if the college took this into account it would make the entry “a more cohesive community.” To Bennett, the ideal entry would be set up by just randomly putting people together and as a result there should be a wide range of differences amongst the students.

Along with Bennett, Kate Alexander ’02 thinks it is necessary that the college take into account similar living habits when setting up the entries. She described her ideal entry as “lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds, but people of like living habits on the same floors and in the same suites. Alexander also believes there is enough diversity in interests and activities in the student body as a whole that the college does not need to worry about that area in setting up the entries.

Greg Kim ’02 agrees with Bennett and Alexander that it is necessary to have some similarities, along with diversity, in the entries. Kim commented that although his entry is diverse and the minorities “have a voice,” the lack of similarities results in his entry not spending much time together and not being very close. Kim also said he thinks diversity should be taken into account in all areas, including interests and activities, “Seeing and hearing about other’s interests can spark our own.”

Sarah Reynolds ’02 sees diversity in not to be important in itself, but how we preceive other people, “I think the ideal entry is one where people are open to the differences between every individual, not exoticizing or normalizing any members, but really viewing every encounter as an exploration of another way of life.” Reynolds said she does not see a need for the college to consciously make an effort to diversify the entries, but if a random group of people is put together then there will be plenty of diversity in that group.

Bloxam and McEvoy said some changes will be made in setting up First-year entries. The responsibility for setting up the entries has recently shifted from the Dean’s office to the Housing Office so some “checks and balances” will be set up to ensure diversity. McEvoy is also conferring with the CDC and other campus groups to get their suggestions on how to set up more diverse entries.

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