Transparency and endurance

Last fall President Schapiro hit the ground running – sprinting ahead, jumping over the fence around the track, and taking the rest of us with him. He vowed to make Williams re-think the way it does just about everything that matters, from the classroom to the dorm room to the locker room, and to do so collectively.

Three semesters later, with varying amounts of enthusiasm, the College has grappled with the most fundamental questions it, or any other institution of higher education, must resolve. What do we want our students to learn in our classrooms? How do we improve their lives outside of it? How do we want to define ourselves? What do we want our student body to look like? What goals do we set and what images do we attempt to propagate? Serious reconsideration of any one of these questions would mark this as a period of great change, and we are trying to tackle them all at once.

As we prepare for our board transition here at the Record, we find ourselves looking back as active participants in this unprecedented conscious effort to consider and enact lasting change in virtually all aspects of the College. Both as an editorial board and a community as a whole, we have been forced to contemplate both these rather profound questions and the very way we ponder them.

What we have learned from this process is that the two biggest requirements for both college decision-making and our coverage of it are transparency and endurance.

This has been, and will continue to be, a time of great energy and change. That change requires that all those involve take on the responsibility of always openly presenting and soliciting opinions throughout the entire deliberative process.

The Record also must ensure that its coverage of this notable period in Williams’ history seeks out full participation, assures accountability and sees issues through to the end.

Covering these issues in the past year, we have both successes and failure in these realms. The model of excellence should be the CEP’s discussions of curricular reform, discussions marked by tremendous attention to both transparency and endurance, as the process included wide participation and was well-publicized within the College community.

The athletics debate was relatively enduring, as students and faculty engaged and continue to engage it. However, as much as administrators strove to promote transparency, the lack of disclosure of key admissions statistics to the community restricted what could have been a more informed discussion.

Lastly, on issues of diversity at the College, we see failures in both transparency and endurance. Attention is fleeting and often symbolic, with inadequate focus on the crucial issue of student stratification at multiple levels on campus: in the entry, in the classroom, on the playing field and on the weekends. It should be the College, and not the minority community, that takes responsibility for encouraging open discussion and understanding of faculty and student interests and concerns.

We hope that the College administration will reexamine its efforts in the past year to promote transparency and endurance on issues of importance to the broader community. For example, the CUL evaluation of residential life must better embody these principles, promoting contemplative rigor and facilitating access to the requisite information.

While we have generally been impressed by the efforts of President Schapiro and his administration, we call on them to look back over their last year, carrying on their procedural successes and applying proven approaches in areas that are wanting.

We also charge the incoming Record editorial board to stress this same approach in its coverage of these monumental discussions. Our first year dealing with such complex re-evaluations of the all aspects of the College has yielded insight into what its role can and should be. We have seen in the last year that the Record operates best when it simultaneously functions as a spotlight and a megaphone, by both illuminating and raising issues, and by allowing others to pick it up to address and debate them. Our pages must be encyclopedia and journal, not only providing information but also encouraging and enabling active discussion.