Campus improvements took center stage as the Trustees of Williams College held their quarterly board meeting this past weekend. After the formal board meeting on Friday, the trustees were joined by members of the Williams faculty and staff for a weekend retreat.
Although no proposals were officially approved, the board was overwhelmingly in favor of the plans that have been suggested to improve the College’s physical plant, the curriculum and the level of diversity on campus, according to Morton Schapiro, President of the College.
The board did vote to approve tentative funding for various campus projects, though no precise budget can be approved before the proposals themselves are completely finished. Nonetheless, Schapiro was extremely pleased with the trustees’ support of the proposals.
“The consensus of the board was we’ve been saving a lot of money and when the right moment came around we needed to spend it,” said Schapiro. “I was really happy that the board was willing to spend a nice chunk of the money that we’ve been saving. They were bravely willing to go forward.”
The meeting began with a presentation by Denise Scott Brown of Venturi, Scott Brown Associates, the campus planning firm that is overseeing the physical renovation of the College.
The presentation dealt with issues that face colleges as they restructure, especially with respect to a college’s relationship with the town.
The bulk of the weekend was spent in smaller groups discussing a variety of issues including alcohol consumption on campus, curricular changes, housing, technology and diversity. Each group was co-chaired by a Williams faculty member and a member of the board.
Charles Dew, professor of history and chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Life (CUL), and Lucienne Sanchez ’79, chair of the Committee on Campus Life, led the housing discussion. In this session, Dew presented the CUL’s proposal on student life which, according to Schapiro, was well-received by the board.
“The board recognized that we have a package of things that add up academically and in terms of the budget,” said Schapiro.
“We’re expanding the faculty, but we’re also expanding faculty housing, office space and parking. We’re putting aside money for the changes that the CUL would like to see made. We really have a great plan to move forward.”
The discussion about alcohol centered on ways in which the College could change its approach to drinking on campus. “We looked at a variety of approaches,” said Schapiro. “Even some of the more extreme ones like Bowdoin’s, where they ban all alcohol except for beer and wine.”
The curricular change group focused on the proposal made by the Committee on Educational Policy and approved by the faculty last year. The technology group looked at how technology affects all aspects of the College. The diversity group looked at ways in which the College could embrace diversity in student life and in the classroom.
The day ended with Scott Brown presenting her firm’s specific proposal for renovating the Williams campus, particularly with regards to the Stetson-Sawyer renovation project. Cappy Hill, provost of the College, and Nancy Roseman, Dean of the College, then presented the Theater and Dance and Baxter renovation projects, respectively.
Schapiro hopes that the proposal for renovating the Theater and Dance complex will be made public around Feb. 6 with construction beginning next fall, as expected.
At the more formal board meeting on Friday, the trustees approved a budget, the administration’s proposed tenure list and the slate of honorary degrees to be conferred in June.
Over the weekend, the trustees, faculty and staff also found time for some relaxation, and all enjoyed an hour-long journey into the Florida Everglades National Park.
“It’s good to have some bonding with the faculty and staff,” said Schapiro. “Interacting with our faculty and staff really impresses the trustees, and I think the faculty was also really impressed with the board.”