I don’t want my op-ed pieces to come off as Andy Rooney-esque diatribes. That having been said, if I overhear more worry about the College being in a “precarious financial state” I might scream. Previously, student activism was mollified by resting on the laurels of our top academic and athletic standing. This aforementioned mollification is now also buttressed by the constant use of the global economic downturn as the basis for not being able to make necessary changes at Williams.
Ephs have been quite insulated from the economic downturn, oftentimes thanks to decisions that benefit students and faculty on the backs of other members of our community. Moreover there remain large swaths of changes that ought to be made that require few (if any) additional dollars, especially when taking into consideration the things we presently spend our dollars toward. My points are two-fold: First, that in times like these we should be trimming at the fat not the meat, and second, that what we prioritize to cut or add should illustrate our institutional values.
I look around Williams and see a number of things lacking that many of our peer institutions have. For example, we really do need a better system for getting students escorted home late at night, preferably administered by Campus Safety and Security. The present student escort service is rarely advertised, and the hours are too short. I’ve had far too many (oftentimes) female friends tell me about late night sketchy walks home. We currently seem to operate under a “Buddy System” / “It’ll be fine, this is Williamstown” paradigm. While it may be news to some, not everyone here is “buddy” material and bad things, whether it be an inebriated student slipping on ice or worse, can happen in Williamstown. I say we should be safe rather than sorry.
Speaking of (predominantly) women’s-centered issues and the falsity that is this constructed safe imagined community, why don’t we have at least one building designated all-female housing? We have “quiet” and gender neutral housing. Every other campus I’ve ever visited has had at least one female house, and oftentimes queer, black, Hispanic, et cetera. I’m not proposing building a new dorm, more a bit of a campus shuffle. I just think we ought to rock the boat a little and at least begin to discuss it. Also, while clearly I wouldn’t know from first-hand experience, second-hand sources have told me that women do not have sanitary napkin holders in all bathroom stalls on campus. I don’t think fixing that would cost a bundle.
Another point regards Dining Services. Many students haven’t noticed that some staff hours are being capped, saving costs in that they are then ineligible to receive full health benefits. Ironically enough, they are dangled the carrot of overtime. In this economic climate, most folks are thankful just to have a job, and thus we have a system that makes staff work harder for us for what is less overall for them.
In mentioning Dining Services, I have some thoughts on other changes as well. Once again, every other campus that I’ve visited uses a different system by which students can buy back meals. Dining Services seems to work by asking you, “How much do you think you’re going to eat?” as opposed to “Pay for what you eat.” I just wanted to put this out there, in hopes that Dining Services, being the most student-friendly and responsive office on campus, might do something about it.
Another concern for me is that [the academic drop/add period] is far too quick. I’m just saying it could at least be extended by one week. If you have a class that meets only once a week, you really have only one class, maybe two at most, to decide and then your schedule is locked in like a roller coaster harness.
In sum, cuts do mean change and prioritization. I often hear that if we cut X, Y or Z that “Williams just won’t be Williams” anymore. In my view, many elements of our current hierarchy of priorities speak to why that wouldn’t be a problem.