This is the most important year of the most important committee of the most important college in America. The Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) will spend Monday afternoons hashing out the future of Williams and if you have got any ideas, you better pipe up. You know that we have a new president, a new dean of the faculty and a new dean of the College. You know we have over a billion dollars. You also know this school could be a better place.
We truly believe that this is a moment of the College’s history that befits every cliched term that indicates the necessity of change. We are at the crossroads—the newness of Williams’ leadership and the vastness of our resources ought to inspire your imagination.
President Schapiro put it to the CEP last week: “The train is leaving the station and you better get on now.” That is a plea to every member of this place to get on board with ideas about what they want this College to be. With a measure of arrogance and one of excitement we should realize that Williams is at the top and it is our duty to provide innovative ideas for the liberal arts in the American academy.
The CEP has the same challenge for both the faculty and the student body: What ideas do you have? What dreams can you lend to planning for the future of Williams? Whether you are thinking big or small, this exercise in community creativity needs your help. The CEP’s exercise in democratic campus leadership needs your participation.
Indeed, this year will be a critical one for CEP. Before us lies a June deadline at which time we must present innovative and transformative curricular ideas to the Board of Trustees. Consequently, we are sifting through radical new ideas and revisiting old issues. By the end of this academic year, we will have established new and higher standards for educational reform. It is time to set institutional goals, and restructure the College according to these objectives. Will we have a new advising system? Might we change the college calendar to add a Sophomore Summer? Perhaps we will revise Winter Study, or move to a trimester system. We must reconsider the credit system and review academic requirements. Will we cease to have divisions I, II and III? The basic structure of this College is about to change. In anticipation of these changes, a call is being made for an increase in faculty size. To which departments should financial resources for additional professors go? What new positions must be created? How will they fit into our new plans? Now is the time. Together, we must forge a new path. The question remains, how far are we, the student body willing to make Williams go? How much change are we willing to initiate?
According to President Schapiro, “most colleges speak of the same problems and needs: more interactions between students and professors, a larger faculty, a better advising system. The difference is Williams actually takes action instead of just talking, and we want to build on that tradition this year.” In order to accomplish this, however, the students must be an integral part of the curricular reform that will soon sweep through this college. The student body as a whole must help the faculty and administration to gain a better idea of what needs to be changed, improved, or revised on campus. It must not only bring issues and problems to the forefront of the debate, but also help to develop ideas, proposals, and solutions. As students, both present and future, will be impacted by curricular changes, students need to have a substantial voice in enacting such changes. The role of students should not be understated, rather it should be emphasized. “It would be helpful for the CEP to know what students’ most meaningful educational experiences have been here at Williams,” says Professor Laurie Heatherington, chair of the CEP. “It would also be helpful to know what students find lacking in their educational experience, or missing, or weak in the curriculum.” The fact is that we have a new administration willing and eager to keep this College where it has always been: at the pinnacle of American higher education. In order to do so, we must be innovators at the cutting edge of the unique developments in curricular reform that are, at least for Williams, essentially a foregone conclusion. The train is leaving, and the time has come for students to join the faculty and administration on board.
To this end, we are asking all students of all years to come and share their ideas for curricular reform with us on Wednesday, Sept. 27 from 9 to 10pm in the Goodrich Great Room. Your ideas can be formal or casual, raw or well-developed, broad or specific; we want to hear them all. So stop by Goodrich, enjoy some complimentary snacks and coffee and tell us what you think the future of the Williams’ curriculum should be. We hope to see you all there! (If you cannot attend, please feel free to email any student member of the CEP with your ideas. The deadline for the submission of all ideas is October 15, 2000.)
Gunther ’01, Barth ’02, Haynes ’02, Crowe ’03 and Roizen ’03 are the student members of the Committee on Educational Policy.