Committee continues discussion of Claiming Williams Day’s future

In the weeks following the College’s second Claiming Williams Day, the Claiming Williams Steering Committee has continued to evaluate the results of the day and examine the online survey data as well as comments from students, faculty and staff. While it remains to be determined whether Claiming Williams Day will be scheduled into the academic calendar for a third year, discussions have focused on ensuring that the messages and goals of Claiming Williams will be emphasized on campus throughout the semester and beyond.

“I – and many others – think it’s important that Claiming Williams Day be a catalyst for change, not limited to a day of learning and interacting,” said Wendy Raymond, associate dean of institutional diversity and professor of biology. “That has truly been accomplished this year in a couple of dimensions, and many potential outcomes are works in progress.”

Raymond said that it remains unclear whether Claiming Williams events will continue as year-long efforts, a day-long event or a combination of the two, as occurred this year.

“As in the past, if Claiming Williams is to continue as a day that interrupts the academic calendar, the faculty will need to vote to amend the 2010-11, and beyond, calendars,” Raymond said. “While this decision has not yet been made, the online survey shows that a sizable majority of survey respondents favors continuing Claiming Williams in the future.” According to Raymond, the decision may be made at an April or May faculty meeting.

“Whether or not the faculty approve such a motion, I believe that there is strong support from students, faculty, staff and high-level administrators to continue the year-long efforts for Claiming Williams well into the future,” Raymond said.

According to the Claiming Williams Web site, the committee is also currently offering funding for spring Claiming Williams events proposed by students, faculty and staff “that address issues of race, gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality or religion, and that include dialogue in small-group or moderated discussions.”

In a concrete response to Claiming Williams Day, Leslie Brown, professor of history, constructed a proposal for a new class, titled “History of Whiteness in the United States.” The 300-level history course, to be offered in the fall, is “rooted in questions raised by students who participated in Claiming Williams about expanding opportunities for intellectual engagement on issues about race.”

Though initial reactions showed mostly positive views from students who attended events on Claiming Williams Day, one of the main criticisms of the event came up at the town hall meeting at the Log, where some students expressed their concern that white males feel marginalized in many of the programs associated with Claiming Williams. Brown designed her class in an attempt to address these issues in an academic and intellectual setting.

“Historians recognize that although there is no such thing as ‘race’ biologically, race was and is a social, cultural and historical construct, shaping and shaped by a given society. Its importance and role varies over time,” Brown said. “To view that process in historical context is precisely the point of this scholarly inquiry.”

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *