The faculty will vote today on two proposals that could alter the winter months at Williams in two different ways. We urge the faculty to approve both motions – to vote “yes” to the implementation of a regularly graded Winter Study course and also to the institutionalization of Claiming Williams. Voting “yes” to both proposals would demonstrate the faculty’s reaffirmation of the goal of continually reassessing the College’s needs and doing our best to meet those needs.
Students who withdraw from a course during the semester face the burden of making the course up by either taking five courses in a semester or taking a course at another institution over the summer. The first option puts undue stress on students; the second often denies students the quality of education and individual attention that professors at the College offer. A Williams-caliber, graded Winter Study class provides a good alternative. Crafting a team-taught, interdisciplinary course – rather than a single course taught by a single professor – could satisfy the needs of students across divisions. Whichever profes- sors take this class on will have the task of creating something challenging, interesting, useful and fun – but the Williams faculty is up to the task. Although graded courses are alien to the Winter Study that students cherish, this option will be a significant aid to a number of students, and does not need to set a precedent for other courses.
Voting to institutionalize Claiming Williams poses a greater difficulty. We feel that faculty support should be contingent on rewriting the Claiming Williams mission statement following the vote. There is great value in setting aside a day each year for discussion and celebration of all that is Williams. However, the value of Claiming Williams depends on its form and on buy-in from students and other community members alike. The current mission statement focuses on privilege and inequalities, which tends to engender blame and guilt. A more effective day would allow people a space to have their voices heard, but would frame conversations toward community building: getting to understand one another, working toward mutual respect. The onus will be on each year’s steering committee first to struc- ture productive discourse that addresses both current campus events and criticisms of the previous year’s Claiming Williams Day, then to recruit a vibrant steering committee to succeed it. A day focused on air- ing grievances does not allow everyone to “claim” Williams. The point is to claim Wil- liams together, not from each other.