Five months after the launch of Williams Speaks Up, a bias-reporting web portal conceived in response to the Stand With Us movement, the site has published a total of one incident report and remains largely under the radar.
The Web site’s initiators had hoped it would be an important tool for communication and education about diversity and community engagement, serving as an archive of incidents and a forum where students can share their experiences with incidents of community disrespect.
Dean Merrill also noted that “it can help stem the tide against poor Web sites with no mechanism for weeding out gossip.”
Currently, the Web site contains an extensive archive of incidents from Campus Safety and Security, the Multicultural Center and the Record in addition to the sole incident report.
When an incident is reported, the Dean’s Office, which administers the site, is notified. The Williams Speaks Up committee – comprising the dean of the College, Minority Coalition (MinCo) co-chairs, junior advisor co-presidents and College Council representatives – then meets. “Approval is not necessarily a long-winded process but it does impend on the committee’s decision after its meeting,” said Elizabeth Jun ’09, co-president of MinCo.
The review board began its work last spring and has discussed only two possible postings, although a total of five reports have been submitted. “One came as a submission, we posted it and it was fairly straightforward,” Merrill said. “The other showed how complex the process can be.”
Currently, the Dean’s Office is working to preserve the Web site and ensure its use as a communication tool. Merrill noted that there have been “administrative breakdowns” in running the site. “I think there is a great deal of value in the Web site,” she said, “but in order for it to be run successfully over time, we can’t only depend on student energy and initiative to keep it going, much as that was very useful in getting the site launched in the first place.”
Merrill acknowledged that Williams Speaks Up needs more visibility and more thought from both students and faculty about how it can be used effectively. “We just didn’t have the time in the spring to really reflect about the place of the Web site within the institution,” she said.
Williams Speaks Up has not yet received much time on the College Council agenda this semester either. “We have held many College Council campus meetings consisting of the full-year officers, but we have not discussed Williams Speaks Up in those meetings,” said Peter Nurnberg ’09, CC co-president.
Jason Ren ’08, former co-president of MinCo and one of the site’s founders, attributes the lack of activity to the beginning of the school year. He maintains his hope that the site will become a vehicle for education about bias. “The support from the administration last year was overwhelming, and I believe that it will become a truly great living public archive for the students of Williams,” he said.