The fate of two deserving programs hangs in the balance in today’s faculty vote. The dance program stands to receive accreditation as an academic department, and the future of Claiming Williams Day is on the table for extension, revision or elimination. We urge the faculty to vote “yes” for the continuation of both initiatives.
As a performance art, dance exists on par with theater, music and art studio in 98 percent of the country’s colleges and universities, leaving the College tapping its toes in the dust. Concerns that the program is not currently rigorous enough to merit academic accreditation can be mitigated if the College works not only to bump up the program’s academic standing but also to improve the department as a whole, gathering student and faculty feedback and reworking the core curricula. Allowing academic credits in dance is a first and solid step in this direction. In times of economic strain, a dance department would indeed be another mouth to feed, but few fresh resources would be required to academically validate the program. Resources constraints or none, the academic merit of this discipline warrants a positive vote in itself.
Despite kinks in its first conceptualization, Claiming Williams undeniably provided an open and encouraging forum and proved its capacity for constructive expansion. From the specific events surrounding Stand With Us, it became a community-wide platform for discourse; from the theme of “privilege,” it fostered conversations on almost every community issue imaginable. The relevance and benefit of Claiming Williams can only grow with time as it absorbs ideas on how to become better from all corners of campus. Future programs should not replicate the first but learn from its mistakes and capitalize on what it did well, which is set aside a time for speaking candidly about the problems and issues of diversity on our changing campus. We ask the faculty to allow us this time set apart from our regular schedules to continue this constructive discussion. If the College is serious about maturing into an inclusive, welcoming community, the contributions of Claiming Williams cannot fall by the wayside.
Voting “yes” for both causes advances the College’s vibrancy as academic institution. Faculty should give the dance program and Claiming Williams their due recognition as important facets to student and community life.