Rankings don’t define the Williams experience

The recent placement of the College at #1 in the US News and World Report college rankings has been a point of pride among incoming first-years, generated self-congratulation among members of the College community and has even motivated All-Campus Entertainment (ACE) to throw a party celebrating our apparent national preeminence.

While we welcome the national recognition of the quality of a Williams education, it is essential that we as a community do not overstate its importance and lose sight of our long-term goals. Over the past three years, the College has embarked on an ambitious path of self-reflection and improvement for its academic, residential and social spheres. Along the way, we have witnessed the largest faculty hiring spree since the College adopted coeducation, a reaffirmation and expansion of the Williams tutorial model and the implementation of a new House Coordinator (HC) system loosely based on the celebrated Junior Advisor model. These changes have enhanced the core strengths of a Williams education and experience, but much remains to be done.

Being #1 means little in the context of continuing our quest for excellence; we must avoid the complacency that can result from a high rating, be proactive in taking advantage of the new opportunities availed by the recent changes and remain active participants in the various strategic processes that will continue throughout the year.

Specific proposals that will impact the lives of generations of Williams students to come include the development of the new student center and a massive library and faculty office complex. Also, the effects of the 2001 proposals on residential reform by the Community on Undergraduate Life (CUL) continue to ripple as the residential life system evolves. All these process are integral to the College’s health, and student input is essential to our continuing success as a community. As students, our actions on campus shape the Williams experience, which cannot be quantified by any ranking. While the publicity is nice, gloating about a ranking that we have all dismissed as flawed and transient at some point or another is fundamentally unnecessary.