CCI discusses future in poorly attended forum

Only five students attended the Committee on Community Interactions (CCI) all-campus forum last Wednesday. The forum was held to explain CCI’s progress and answer any questions that students had last Wednesday. Topics discussed included background on CCI and defining its plan of action, as well as specific issues about campus life raised by the five participants.
At the forum, CCI members handed out fliers with a list of statistics regarding satisfaction with various aspects of the Williams experience. These statistics were taken from the results of senior exit surveys from the past year. They reflected the diverse stances of various constituency groups on campus. For example, 30 percent of athletes reported that they were satisfied with the sense of community, while 13 percent of non-athletes agreed.
Mac Stone ’09, CCI chairman, stated that the goals of the forum were to obtain reactions to the senior exit survey results and to get student input on how best CCI could proceed.
One of the statistics stated that 62 percent of males and 64 percent of females felt the social atmosphere at Williams encourages excessive drinking. The attending students agreed that drinking was a particularly significant issue that needed to be addressed on a larger scale. Shayla Williams ’09, a Junior Advisor (JA) last year, pointed out that there are few effective ways to curb drinking. “What social opportunities are available, and what other options are there besides drinking?” Williams said.
Another topic discussed at the forum involved how best to emphasize what kinds of behavior simply aren’t acceptable. A JA attending the meeting noted that it’s a struggle to get people to understand why something is wrong, not just that it’s taboo.
CCI staff also discussed the Committee’s origins and future course of action. The group formed in response to the issues brought to the surface by last February’s Stand With Us movement, including a push by several members of the community for a social honor code. From its inception, it was intended to be an ad-hoc committee to be terminated eventually, formed to examine the way students interact with peers, faculty and staff at the College. It consists of eight students and four advisory faculty members. Six students serve as liaisons to constituency groups on campus, including JAs, athletes, religious groups, faculty, the Minority Coalition and Security.
In order to determine what problems to address, CCI began by analyzing institutional research and conducting interviews with the constituency groups. CCI has also been examining the results of senior exit surveys, a selection of which were included in the handout distributed at the forum.
After beginning to conduct interviews on their own, CCI realized that Christina Cruz, a research analyst in the Office of the Vice President of Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity, had been conducting research on these same issues via interviews with student groups on campus. With this overlap, CCI halted its interview process to evaluate the professional interviews. “We don’t know what our role is relative to the professional research,” Stone said.
On Thursday, CCI met with Cruz to discuss ways in which students could be involved in this research. The group decided that it would continue with its investigations, while focusing on areas that do not overlap with Cruz’s work. “Ms. Cruz will be at CCI’s next meeting to discuss the specifics of where her research ends and where ours will begin, so we don’t have that information as of yet,” Stone said.
Currently, CCI has not moved beyond the first step of its mandate, which was to determine its purpose by Oct. 15, at which point CC would have voted on whether or not the Committee should continue its work. According to Stone, CCI has not been able to satisfactorily determine or focus on any specific systemic issues. “There are definitely a lot of intangibles. It’s difficult to address a culture of inherent ways that people think,” Stone said.