In response to the tensions caused in recent years by the challenges of the neighborhood system, the Neighborhood Review Committee (NRC) finally released half of their report yesterday, complete with potential changes for next year. Reading through the report, I initially thought that most of the suggestions for changes in the neighborhood system had been met. However, the proposals made in the report are just that – proposals – and no formal decisions have been made on the topics put forth. The report only outlines a short-term plan, leaving the long-term decisions in the making. What worries me is that there is very little time left to make changes, considering the pending room draw coming up after spring break. It may take longer than expected for even the short-term suggestions of the report to be implemented within the community. As a junior, I only have one year left, and I am left hoping that the meaningful changes will take place before my last room draw. Although this might seem like pushing things too fast, students have had problems with the neighborhood system for a very long time, and the sooner some changes are made, the happier the Williams community will be. Some of the suggested changes definitely have the potential to improve the social scene at Williams. Nevertheless, other should be considered cautiously.
The report claims that a change toward quiet housing will benefit the entire campus community by satisfying its long-standing needs. On the one hand, community building is something that Williams College prides itself on but, in fact, we should remember that the Williams community has been truly divided since the neighborhood system was implemented. The new housing changes that the report envisions should be carefully considered, since segregating students along new lines would definitely not contribute to the community building that the neighborhoods system tried, but failed at. On the other hand, I applaud the opportunity given to groups of students who feel like living in a distinct way.
Of course, it should be up to the students to decide where they want to live. Maybe the new system should promote new strategies of bringing the community together based on something other than housing; maybe our residential system isn’t the appropriate place for community building. There are so many factors that could bring students together that relying on unity based on living close-by is simply unnecessary.
The most beneficial change, in my opinion, will be the newly established relationship between All-Campus Entertainment (ACE) and the Neighborhood Governance Boards (NGBs). Unfortunately, the Williams community has had an ambivalent response towards ACE-organized activities in the past few years. Many students feel that ACE has not been living up to the “all-campus” part of its name. The reality is that ACE has not been able to do so because its budget has been significantly decreased since the neighborhood system was implemented. Since this change, part of ACE’s money has been divided up to be channeled to the individual neighborhoods, leaving the social programming funds spread thin. ACE was left with a certain amount of money, meticulously partitioned into its concerts, First Fridays and Stressbusters by College Council. Hence, ACE had very limited flexible funds to spend on other big events.
As its budget has diminished, so has the ability of ACE to be the prestigious body that it once was. The roles of ACE and the NGBs have been mostly blurry, which has also made communication between these institutions extremely troubled. Without such communication between the social planners on campus, the Williams community has suffered because, for instance, on many occasions different events have been taking place at the same time, while there have been whole weekends without major events in sight. In addition, there have been occasions when ACE and the neighborhoods were not able to make certain events happen due to a lack of funds. These problems could be effectively resolved through the resolutions stated in the report. Once it is clear what role the NGBs and ACE should have on campus, each institution would be able to return to its original responsibilities. The neighborhoods could focus on housing and making their residents happy, while ACE could reassume its traditional role of an all-campus entertainer. I completely agree that the new arrangements will improve the social atmosphere at Williams.
With the changes listed and discussed in the report, it will be interesting to see the suggestions proposed in its second part. I would like to see what changes will actually take place this year and what new structures will be implemented next year. No doubt the report outlines many good resolutions, but the fact remains that that nothing is set in stone. No one should get their hopes up just yet.