Although the College’s presidential selection process was rather detached from the student body, and at times was downright secretive, the end result of the process must be applauded. The College’s choice for Williams 16th president could not make the members of the Record editorial board happier or more confident about the future of this institution. In selecting Morton Owen Schapiro as the new president, the College reavows its commitment to academic excellence.
With the advent of online technologies and distance learning, the coming decade promises drastic changes in the course of education at Williams and across the entirety of academia. During his initial weekend visit, Schapiro made it clear that he is both ready and qualified to lead the College into an era which finds liberal arts schools at a crossroads and new technologies around every corner. We are very excited by Schapiro’s return to Williamstown, partly because he has a reputation of someone who gets things done, but mostly because he appears focused on what should be most important to the College: academics. Having been both a member of the faculty and an administrator at Williams, Schapiro understands the advantages of a small liberal arts education. The College should be able to pride itself on the educational fundamentals of well-taught classes and a faculty that is accessible to the student body.
Because Schapiro was an educator before he became an administrator, he is not only well-versed in these fundamentals, but within hours of his return to campus he made it clear that he is committed to them as well. Charismatic and energetic, Schapiro will certainly bring a much-needed vitality to the Williams campus. Showing that he has a passion for the College, the new position and improving the quality of academics, he has already proposed an addition to the curriculum which he termed service learning. If implemented, the new classes would give students the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge in the real world by filling temporary positions in primary and secondary education.
That Schapiro is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the economics of higher education should also prove to be a boon for Williams students, especially those dependent on financial aid.
Schapiro has a bright vision for the future of Williams and the role that the liberal arts education should play in society. Although it may be a bit premature, since he won’t arrive on campus permanently until July, we at the Record are glad to welcome Schapiro back to Williamstown and back to the Williams community. We are looking forward to his leadership and guidance.
In conclusion, we have one short piece of advice. Schapiro appears eager to position Williams at the forefront of the academic vanguard, playing an influential role in the advancement of distance learning and perhaps other related programs. However, the College must not jump headlong into uncharted waters for no other reason than to be the first one to get wet. Schapiro and the College must evaluate the direction Williams is headed and whether heading in that direction meets the College’s original mission. If Schapiro remains committed to the educational fundamentals that have kept Williams at the forefront of American higher education and which have kept the Williams education classroom-centered, the Schapiro presidency cannot help but be a success.