“This is going to be a different kind of meeting for some of you,” Sophia Kuo ’00 said to the small group of students, faculty and administrators who met Friday, Dec.10 to try and turn their complaints and queries into constructive dialogue.
The meeting, designed to get people talking about undiscussed issues at Williams, started with an open brainstorm about residential life and ended with students forming several exploratory committees to address their concerns.
Discussion topics ranged from housing and meal plans to faculty-student interaction, workload, the effects of technology on student life and whether students learn anything of real value at Williams.
When the brainstorming headed toward chaos early on, College Council (CC) Co-president Bert Leatherman ’00 initiated a meeting procedure in which every person in the room could speak once.
Jeffrey Grant ’00 claimed that the workload at Williams is “absurd” and often counterproductive, preventing students from equally valuable and educational but nonacademic experiences. Referring to his training as a Junior Advisor, Todd Rogers ’01 said, “They told us there were three major elements to student life: academics, sports and social life, and that we get to have one and a half.”
But Jackson Professor of Religion Williams Darrow said that he thought students were overwhelmed because they shoot for too much. “I’m surprised at how busy you keep yourselves,” he told the students. Although Darrow fears that the college “creates workaholics,” he also thinks that the students’ responses to the workload often lack realistic prioritizing, and that Williams students often take on a tremendous amount of extracurricular commitments.
On other subjects, Jon Foreman ’00 said he’d like a copy of the New York Times in every common room and a printer in every housing cluster. Jackie Stein ’00 said that dormitories are dominated by a few loud students who infringe upon the rights of others. Director of Housing Tom McEvoy said he wonders whether the housing draw is the best method of allocating housing.
Kuo and Jonathan Plowman ’00, co-organizers of the meeting, repeatedly interrupted debates and directed the discussion.
At the end of the meeting, Plowman and Kuo grouped all of the topics under several categories, and students then volunteered to form exploratory committees in each category.
Some of the committees that may appear on campus in January will focus on campus governance, faculty-student interaction, meal plans, workload, housing, co-ops, social life on campus, campus community and the intellectual community at Williams.
Kuo hopes the committees will continue generating discussion at Williams: “The point is to increase campus discussion that’s proactive, not just complaining.”