The Neighborhood Review Committee has spent the past six months examining the neighborhood system in its first three years, and with the release of their findings today, students must take the baton that is being passed to them and join in on the criticism of this young, flawed pilot system so that changes to the system constitute real improvements based on student experience.
The report offers a nuanced account of student dissatisfaction with the system, as reported by students in senior exit surveys as well as two all-campus surveys on neighborhoods and the Williams experience in general. The summary demonstrates that the neighborhood system functions as little more than an obstacle in most students’ lives, and that the goals of increasing diversity and fostering residential community are far from being realized. These complaints should sound familiar to the hundreds of students who have entered themselves into the lottery for a better living situation, or who have accepted living away from friends because they have no other choice. Remembering the frustrations of pick-in season, students need to be forthcoming and thorough in their thoughts on what is working and what is not. Ways to get involved include reading the report, commenting on the committee’s Web site and attending the all-campus forums with friends.
That only 30 percent of students chose to respond to the campus-wide survey asking for student opinion on neighborhoods last spring is pathetic at best, and if such indifference extends to this part of the process, there won’t be another chance for students to say their piece. Inactivity when there’s no avenue for action is one thing, but continued passivity in the face of potential change is inexcusable. Students are the only ones who have first-hand experience with the current residential experience, and if we don’t speak up then the administration will continue to pursue its ideals for lofty diversity discourse and “inter-group friends” in the dorms that have nothing to do with the way students actually operate. Our homes are our responsibility, and now is the time to let the committee know what we think.
If students offer up their criticism en masse during the review process, the committee’s final report that shows up on the desk of Incoming President Falk in the spring will give him a clear portrait of what students want. Given that he has no investment in maintaining the current neighborhood system because he did not have a hand in forming it, unlike the Committee for Undergraduate Life or President Schapiro, Falk is in the best position to have an unfettered understanding of how student opinion clashes with the implementation of the neighborhood system’s ideals. By getting involved in the review process at this crucial moment, students will be helping the next step in housing be the right one.