As the year ends, the Students Against Silence (SAS) Committee is wrapping up projects for the current semester and planning ahead for the next. The seven sub-committees are working to address many issues on campus and have compiled an internal report outlining the groups, how often they meet, what goals they wish to accomplish and what they have been able to put into practice.
The First-Year Experience Task Force, headed by Long Dang ’15, is discussing ways to address obstacles or questions first-year students may face. The task force looks specifically into the entry life, academics, advising, social adjustments, First Days orientation, effortless perfection and other relevant parts of the first-year experience. Through this work, the committee is looking to promote an environment where first-years can feel more comfortable and more knowledgeable earlier in their first year spent at the College. The task force has implemented an Entry Book Program, in which current entries write down advice, tips and even include photographs to pass along to future entries. According to Dang, the idea of the Entry Book Program is to increase cohesion between entries of different years, or “generations,” and also help to give first-years more information and advice in terms of navigating their first days on campus.
“We got the support of [the Junior Advisor Advisory Board, College Council] and the deans’ office to implement an Entry Book Program,” Dang said. “The books would be passed down every year. So Willy C can continually add onto this book and provide a resource for students to use. The First-Year Experience Task Force distributed these books to entries last Sunday during snacks.”
The Curriculum Task Force is chaired by Sivahn Barsade ’14. The goal of this task force is to evaluate the existing course curriculum and its requirements. Particularly, the task force will focus on courses in the curriculum with respect to the Exploring Diversity Initiative requirement and courses that actively promote a critical engagement with diversity. Barsade believes the importance of the particular task force she leads will provide a broader impact on increasing awareness of diversity in the community.
“To take full advantage of Williams’ purposefully diverse community, SAS hopes to engage the broad Williams population in this movement to explore and examine our differences,” Barsade said.
The Community Values Task Force is examining how to incorporate the College’s mission statement into the daily life of every student on campus. Specifically, Katy Gathright ’12, chair of the committee, and Francesca Barrett ’12 have been working with Dean Bolton in an attempt to extract excerpts from the student handbook that deal with student conduct and synthesize them into one coherent statement about the social values the College holds as a community. This statement will likely be finalized by the fall of 2012.
The Residential Life Task Force, headed by Zach Evans ’12, looks to asses the extent to which the existing dormitory and student life infrastructure provides safe spaces for students at the College to interact, have conversations and learn from one another. Specifically, the group is focusing on the Baxter Fellow program and students’ proposals for ideas such as substance-free housing and gender-specific floors. Although the group has not officially proposed any concrete changes to housing or residential life, it is conducting preliminary discussions about potentially creating an advisory board for Baxter Fellows comprised of members with experience in community building and in dealing with issues that may surface in residential life.
The Campus Identity Task Force, chaired by Quinn Solfisburg ’14, aims to provide institutional support for the many identities on campus by looking at student activities and involvement outside the classroom. As in the Residential Life Task Force, concrete changes have not yet been implemented, but the group has assigned sub-chairs to look more specifically into questions about identity, diversity and social interaction on campus.
The Classroom Culture Task Force’s goal is to find ways to better foster and mediate relationships between students, departments and administrators. The group, which is not chaired by any student in particular, hopes that both students and professors will willingly contribute to a conversation about classroom culture. Through these discussions, the task force hopes to encourage the campus to acknowledge that there is no systematic way to analyze the concerns of individuals, but rather that addressing individuals’ concerns within a classroom setting requires a less formal and more flexible approach. One of the task force’s ideas includes a Student Advisory Board in which members of the student body would volunteer as mentors to students and mediators between faculty, department chairs and the student body. Other suggestions include a faculty handbook, tentatively titled “What is Classroom Culture?” that would consist of anonymous student anecdotes regarding specific incidents and provide an objective way to solve problems that may arise; a re-evaluation of the current system through which students evaluate courses at the end of the semester; and a public forum on classroom culture that would provide students with an opportunity to speak about personal experiences in the classroom.
The Public Discussion Task Force is led by Maya Hawkins-Nelson ’14. Its goal is to stimulate public discussion about the culture of silence on campus and to work to better engage the entire community. Task force initiatives may include poster campaigns, public art, campus exhibits and public forums to keep conversation about silence going. These events will also require the inclusion of other social groups on campus such as the Minority Coalition or the Student Athletic Advisory Committee.
The Social Life Task Force, chaired by Emily Hertz ’13, aims to look at the ways the College could most effectively develop alternative weekend culture and empower students to make decisions that protect their own safety and that of their peers. This could include information on alcohol awareness, bystander training through the Rape and Sexual Assault Network and the relationship between students and Campus Safety and Security. The broad goal of the group is to make students feel safe on campus.