Requests for change

Dear President Falk,

In light of the recent concerns expressed by students, alumni, faculty and staff about this year’s commencement speaker, the Minority Coalition (MinCo) asks for your help and support in pushing forward with necessary changes to make our campus more inclusive and empathetic. You detailed two very important aspects of Williams culture in your most recent statement made in the Record, entitled “Enlightened Dialogue” (April 30, 2014). MinCo and its constituents strive for nothing less than for Williams College to be a place where every individual experience is valued equally, a goal we hope you share. Likewise, we want the administration to work with us in an effort to ensure that voices of marginalized students on campus are not dismissed, especially regarding issues that directly affect them.

First, we see great value in appointing two student representatives from the Minority Coalition to the Honorary Degrees Committee to ensure more representative student voices. The active participation of these individuals would engage the Committee to further consider and understand issues of diversity with respect to the selection of speakers and honorary degree recipients.

Second, we ask that you and the Board of Trustees actively pursue increased transparency within the voting process; specifically, to provide more avenues for student participation in decisions that primarily affect them. Such discussions will be pivotal in increasing the productive discourse and shared decision-making that the Williams community claims to value so strongly.

Third, we request that you make a public statement that expresses your commitment to seeing the success of these goals in a timely manner. Due to our upcoming Commencement, the matter of engaging with the Board of Trustees is urgent and deserves serious and immediate attention. We ask that you call for a meeting between our trustees and the Committee members before the end of the 2013-14 school year to begin work in implementing these changes.

These three simple requests have been devised by MinCo in solidarity with the all-too-often overlooked viewpoints of some minority students on this campus. While we hope to work with you to ensure their completion, it is our belief that every student on this campus deserves an equal platform for his or her voice to be heard as well as an equal chance for success both at Williams and beyond. As such, we will continue to push for changes regardless of official institutional support.

In solidarity,

The Williams College Minority Coalition

  • Williams Eph

    There’s an election that everyone can run in if they want to be on the committee. I don’t recall seeing students from the minority coalition on the ballot this year when we voted. Why not RUN to be on the committee like every other students?

    • Adam

      Perfectly stated.

  • JS

    There’s absolutely nothing “representative” about appointing MinCo students to the Honorary Degrees Committee. In fact, that is the very opposite of fair representation. You want an “equal platform” for every student to be heard, and yet your voices are already louder than everyone else’s by 10-fold. The writers of this letter are simply rude and entitled…but hey, no one really expects civil behavior from MinCo leaders anyway. Good job….

  • MinCo

    Thank you for your comments to our open letter. In response, we want to say that the ultimate goal is to increase the number of student voices on the committee. And as such, we are concerned with the lack of proper representation for different student experiences within committees currently. The reason why this is an issue in the first place is that there wasn’t someone on the committee who was able to voice the possible concerns about Bloomberg that are now, ex post facto, being raised. The decision to involve student representatives from the Minority Coalition will help ensure the minority perspective is fairly represented and guarantees the diversity of voices on the committee.

    We welcome and respect the opinions of everyone from the Williams community. If you would like to contribute additional strategies to foster a campus that embraces diversity, please feel free to reach out to us directly. We respect anonymous comments to express frustrations. Nonetheless, we could more effectively work to make change on campus if you can help share your ideas with us.

  • JS

    Well I’m not so sure it’s a problem that MinCo should have to address in this way. It seems to me more of a bureaucratic symptom of the weird, quasi-democratic committee system we have, in which responsibility for actions is diffused across too many people whose administrative qualifications are questionable. But I don’t think making the committees significantly less democratic (i.e. appointing MinCo students) is going to solve anything, especially on the long term. The idea that some students would be democratically elected while others get specially appointed for the same position is flat-out unfair and nonsensical. That makes minority students doubly represented. Rather, this is more simply a matter of a lack of accountability of the Committee to the student body, which can be addressed by open communication (if not open committee meetings) with the campus before the decisions are made.