Additionally, the CUL will be considering a plan to remove students’ names from WSO housing plans at its meeting today.
According to Jackson Professor of Religion and Chair of CUL William Darrow, “We’ve had a general discussion about several aspects of the room draw. The two most important issues were squatting — which the CUL recommended to not allow — and the names on the room plans.”
“Squatting” was intended to allow individuals to remain in their rooms for successive years without re-entering the room draw. However, concern that this option was being abused to enable groups of students to remain in specific houses prompted the proposal to eliminate it.
McEvoy said, “The removal of squatting allows for a fresh start each year so that a particular building does not become identified with a particular group of students, and works toward creating a mix of residents that better reflects the overall diversity at Williams.”
Peter Murphy, dean of the college, concurred: “I think that our housing system has devolved away from a true random draw, and is now easily manipulated to produce houses, floors and so on composed almost entirely of ‘groups,’ however that is defined,” he said.
According to Darrow, the general philosophy guiding housing at Williams is that “you can choose who you live with but not who you live next to.”
The disconnection between the College’s goal of creating diversity in first-year entries but not insisting on the same goal for upperclass housing led to the consideration of the role of posting names on WSO.
Presently the room draw, which takes place in Mission Park over a series of three days in April, lists all of the housing available on sheets of paper in the East Lounge. As students pick their housing, their names are filled in, allowing those waiting to know what has been taken and by whom.
Two years ago WSO began posting this information on the Internet — enabling students to learn the composition of houses before their picks as well as to find out the final makeup of houses after their picks. “There is a concern that by having the names posted on WSO as rooms are selected that we undermine any sense of randomness and it becomes quite possible for the makeup of the houses, especially smaller ones, to become much less varied than the student body as a whole,” McEvoy said. “I don’t think anyone is trying to pretend that by removing names we have automatic diversity…it simply means we are trying to increase the chances of a more random house composition.”
McEvoy said that even if names are removed from WSO, names will remain on the sheets of paper in Mission. However, Murphy said he would support withholding all information pertaining to housing composition as well as requiring gender balance in houses.
Some students have already expressed dissatisfaction with this proposal. Incoming College Council (CC) co-president, Todd Rogers ’01 said that he supports the aims of the proposal but not the means of achieving it.
“To limit more perfect information is not the appropriate method to bring about meaningfully diverse residences and experiences at Williams,” Rogers said. “I feel that the achievement of their aims of diversity are more appropriately attained through positive efforts to build community rather then to negatively limit information and freedom by forcing accidental diversity upon student residences.”
Lauren Siegel ’00, who is a member of CUL, expressed concern about the ramifications of removing names for first-years with low picks and people picking in as individuals.
“Though I agree in principle with the idea that you should pick who you live with but not who you live next to…if you are moving into a suite of people, or should not be living with smokers or drinkers, it is important to be able to choose your own environment,” Siegel said.
From a logistical standpoint, WSO member Joe Masters ’02 said he heard that after WSO began posting housing plans and listing names, the draw ran much more smoothly. “If names aren’t [on WSO], then students are going to spend larger amounts of time scouring the butcher sheets in Mission for names, and I think this hurried examination will lead to much unhappiness,” he said.
Siegel said, “I think people have been using WSO after the draw to see who has ended up near them, and I’m not sure how effective this would be as a solution to social stratification.”
Gail Newman, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of German and chair of the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC), said “The Committee on Diversity and Community is also concerned with questions of diversity in housing at Williams. We support the CUL’s efforts to explore ways in which the College can achieve both maximum diversity and maximum fairness for the individuals who are choosing their housing.” The CDC will join CUL’s Tuesday discussion of this issue as well as consider it on its own. The CUL will meet today in Goodrich at 4 p.m.