In the past 70 years, October at the College has become known for much more than just Mountain Day. From elections, to fraternity bids, to the establishment of the Asian studies department let’s take a peek at this week in Williamstown history.
The College was one of 300 colleges and universities with high endowments assessed by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, receiving a grade of ‘B+’ for its sustainability efforts. Stephanie Boyd, director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, explained that “the College’s stagnating grade does not reflect a halt in its efforts to promote sustainability on campus.” The College did well in the categories of Food and Recycling, Investments Priorities, Shareholder Engagement and Student Involvement, but was found lacking in the areas of Climate Change and Energy and Transportation (“College scores B+ on sustainability report card,” Oct. 1, 2008).
The College consolidated three majors, Chinese, Japanese and Asian studies, into the Asian studies department “in a move many considered overdue.” The creation of the new department was funded by Time Warner’s pledge of $500,000 to the newly established James A. Linen III ’34 Fund for Asian Studies at Williams College. The creation of the Asian studies department was more sensible from an administrative point of view and left room for expansion to more subjects and classes (“Asian studies gains department status,” Oct. 5, 1993).
In 1979, the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Board of Trustees met to discuss race relations and divestiture. The BSU expressed concerns about the integration of black students into larger campus culture. “I am disappointed that so few whites attend these events [cultural activities sponsored by the BSU],” Warna Bellamy ’80 and Byron Walker ’82 both said. In addition, the BSU spoke with the trustees about halting divestiture of the endowment’s investments in companies that invested in South African companies as a protest against the apartheid regime (“Trustees to face race relations, divestiture,” Oct. 9, 1979).
At the beginning of the academic year of 1965-1966, three quarters of the sophomores who had been offered bids to fraternities accepted. Nick Brown ’66, president of the Saint Anthony Hall fraternity, stated, “We believe that we are not in opposition to, but complementary with, the social unit system.” The 25 percent of sophomores who rejected their fraternity bids did so in protest of the College’s fraternity system. The news article was accompanied by a Record editorial examining the problems that fraternities brought to the College and whether fraternities would be a lasting institution on campus (“Frats Bid For ’68; Sophs Still Replying,” Oct. 5, 1965).
Professor of Spanish Antonio de Lahiguera was returning from Europe on a transatlantic liner when his ship, the Ile de France, picked up an S.O.S. distress call from a marooned cargo boat after a dangerous storm. The Green Ville was found “drifting at a drastic angle” 900 miles off the coast of France. The ship was staffed with a crew of 26 that had gone three days without food. The second captain of the ship was killed by a falling mast, and an 18-year-old crew member drowned while attempting to swim to the Ile de France. The other 24 crew members were taken to safety aboard the Ile de France and dropped off in New York City. The article concluded with a summary of de Lahiguera’s summer tour of Europe and noted that the professor “took pictures of the entire rescue operation and together with those of his trip to Spain, [planned] to show them to students later in the semester” (“Spanish Teacher Witnesses Rescue,” Oct. 10, 1954).
Joseph Buell Ely ’02 was nominated as the head of the Democratic ticket for the position of Massachusetts governor. The article described Ely’s history at the College: “He played an active role in extracurricular activities, especially in debating, and in 1900 he gave evidence of future political belief and leadership by organizing the Williams College Democratic Club.” The article went on to recount Ely’s political background and concluded that “political observers predict that the election will be very close, with the final verdict hinging on the few remaining weeks.” The election was indeed close, but Ely was later elected the 52nd governor of Massachusetts (“Joseph B. Ely is named for governor,” Oct. 7, 1930).