In the wake of a student-led protest which called for students to boycott all English classes that “do not engage substantially with race,” Chair and Professor of English Katie Kent ’88 reported that pre-registration in the department was not substantially changed from previous years. “Our enrollments show no significant difference when compared to our usual averages over the last few semesters,” she said.
On Thursday, the English department announced plans to hold a series of meetings regarding the department’s culture. The meetings are sponsored by the newly created “student experience committee,” which aims to collect student perspectives on the department. In an email to English majors and other students, Associate Professor of English Bernie Rhie said, “As the name of the committee suggests, our aim is to get a more textured sense of the ways that students at Williams experience the English Department. What are your thoughts and feelings about the department, and what are your hopes for its future?” Rhie added that, though the committee was formed prior to the boycott, “the announcement of the boycott obviously makes our work all the more urgent.”
The email posed questions that Rhie hoped attendees would consider during its meetings. “The English Department exists to serve the students of the college — all of them,” it read. “In what ways are we successfully doing that, and in what ways are we coming up short? And how might we grow and change in the future to better fulfill our educational mission?”
In addition to Rhie, Professor of English Gage McWeeny and Assistant Professor of English Kimberly Love serve on the committee. The first meeting took place on Friday and attracted around ten students, according to McWeeny. Regarding the content of the meeting, McWeeny said, “None of the issues being raised are a surprise to us. These are the things we’ve been thinking about and working on for a while.” All other attendees declined to comment.
Rhie stated in the email that additional meetings will occur in the coming weeks, though no specific gatherings have been announced.