Letter to the Editor: Academics as priority

To the Editor:

The April 16 faculty meeting dealt with two important concerns of mine: the growth in administrative staff at Williams and student advising. During the short discussion periods, I had a chance to comment on the first but not on the second, though my first comment had been preparation for the second.

In the senior administration, responsibilities have passed from the academic posts of Provost and Dean of the College, occupied by faculty, to new vice presidents. The consequential challenge is to stay focused on academics as our top priority through an inclusive and democratic process. I think that such recent processes as the closing of dining halls and plans for dormitory renovations have paid too little attention to academic concerns through a more

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corporate decision process. My opinion piece on “Decisions and Priorities” (math.williams.edu/decisions-and-priorities/, May 5, 2010 ) elaborated on this point. On the other hand, I would like to commend Doug Schiazza, director of student life, for his inclusive and open-minded work with his new student-faculty-staff Upperclass Residential Life Advisory Committee.

The new CEP report on “Students Curricular Choices,” presented at the faculty meeting, recommends “initiating a broader conversation about the value of the liberal arts” and proposes several mechanisms. I wanted to suggest a more natural and organic approach. My favorite sentence in the report says: “Is there something about a small liberal arts college that could encourage a more intimate and social space for learning that actually takes advantage of its uniqueness?”

My answer is yes, the opportunities within the dining and residential systems, many such opportunities recently missed, but there are many more still ahead, if we vigilantly watch for them with academics always as our first priority. That’s what I wanted to say but didn’t have a chance to.

Frank Morgan, Atwell Professor of

Mathematics and Dodd Neighborhood

Faculty Program Director