TABLE hosts virtual Baxter Forum with updates from each student-faculty committee

Megan Lin

On Nov. 12, The Advisory Board for Lobbying and Elections (TABLE) hosted an open virtual forum for each committee, consisting of students and faculty making decisions for their particular area, to update students on their activity this past semester and their plans for next semester. Here is a quick summary of what each committee has done. 

Committee on Educational Affairs (CEA)

The CEA discussed the swim test and whether it should remain a graduation requirement, an issue on which the committee has yet to make a decision. “A lot of students have said they don’t think it’s really necessary and a lot of schools don’t really have that requirement anymore,” CEA chair Huy Pham ’22 said. “But it’s been a really long tradition here at Williams, and a lot of the athletic department are pretty keen on keeping it.”

The committee has also been looking into the Liberal Arts Collaborative for Digital Innovation (LACOL), which is a collaboration among 11 different schools, including Williams, to share online classes and teaching. In the past, students have used it to fulfill course deficiencies over the summer. “It’s only been brought up now because of the whole switch to online learning,” Pham said. “We want to see if it’s still worth investing resources into it or not.” According to Pham, the general consensus is that LACOL is still worthwhile because of the opportunities to work with peer institutions, as well as the possibility of growth due to the new COVID-related dependence on online courses.

Committee on Student Life (CSL)

As a committee focused on the non-academic parts of student life on campus, CSL has spent the fall discussing the interim period between semesters and the student programming during then. “We’re looking at ways encouraging gathering indoors over the winter period,” Chair of the CSL Aria Mason ’21 said. These include board games, food and other plans to foster community among the students staying on campus.

The committee has also looked at providing students with resources to be active outside, including a coat drive that occurred as students vacated campus. “Overall, we’re brainstorming ways to make life at Williams as good an experience as possible under COVID,” Mason said.

Committee on Priorities and Resources (CPR)

As the committee focused on budgets, COVID-19 has especially affected the CPR. According to Chair of the CPR Adam Jones ’21, the College is losing $7-10 million out of a $250 million budget due to COVID-19-related expenses. Furthermore, with half of the College’s budget coming from the endowment, which is in flux due to the uncertainty of the financial markets, “budgetary constraints are hitting us from two sides,” Jones said.

Calendar and Schedule Committee (CSC)

The CSC spent the fall deliberating the spring semester schedule. “Basically what we had to do was give some recommendations to the faculty committee, and they would vote on what the calendar would look like for the spring semester,” chair of the CSC Soban Mehmood ’21 said. The committee provided two options for the faculty to decide on, one of them being a “continuous model” with the entire semester spent on campus and the other being a “Thanksgiving model” like the fall semester with students sent home during spring break. The faculty ultimately voted to adopt the continuous model in a faculty meeting on Oct. 14.

Information Technology Committee (ITC)

The ITC has been discussing how the Office for Information Technology has adjusted to the pandemic and the infrastructure changes made throughout the summer. These changes include improving the wireless infrastructure, possibly replacing PeopleSoft with a new software and looking at how remote learning is going this semester and how it can be improved for the spring.

Campus Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC)

The CEAC is prioritizing reducing the College’s greenhouse gas emissions from College travel. Because of the pandemic, travel has been diminished significantly, and emissions have also been consequently cut down. The CEAC is looking at ways the College can continue to keep emissions low by keeping travel low, an unprecedented step for the College. “This is something the College has never really considered seriously,” chair of the CEAC Niku Darafshi ’21 said, since travel was always considered a necessary part of the College’s functions. “But now because of COVID, a lot of people are starting to realize that conferences and all of this extra travel  they were doing before can be done remotely.”

Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC)

This year, the CDC is focused on “past, present, future Williams,” according to chair of the CDC Essence Perry ’22. The committee has been examining how past structural inequality at Williams has impacted students’ perception of Williams today by looking at how alum and students’ experiences at Williams can be archived.

Other priorities have included expanding diversity efforts to the local community and how the College can better interact with people of color in the area.

Library Committee

This fall, the Library Committee has focused on diversity and inclusion by ensuring that diversity in purchases is not diminished due to the 10 percent budget cuts necessitated by the College’s COVID-related spending. The library is hoping to partner with the Stockbridge-Munsee Historic Preservation office on Spring Street, which works to protect Munsee and Mohican cultural sites. The committee also discussed possibly revising the COVID-19 restrictions against eating in the library and extending library hours in the spring.

Lecture Committee

The Lecture Committee, which is in charge of campus guest lecturers, approved 13 requests this semester and were able to fulfill all the budget needs for the speakers in full. Planning ahead for next semester, the committee has been looking into speakers for the Cohen Family Fund event in the spring centered around women in politics. “We’re looking at some fun names,” said Ella Napack ’23, the chair of the committee. “I don’t want to say them to get anyone’s hopes up, but it should be fun.”

Other Committees

The Honorary Degrees Committee is a spring committee and therefore has yet to meet to discuss graduation. The Winter Study Committee has also had little to discuss, as Winter Study has been cancelled for 2021 due to COVID-19.

The Registered Student Organizations Approval Panel, meanwhile, has approved the Williams Premedical Society, Off the Hook, Williams Real Estate Club, Empower Through Health, Sexual Joy and Wellbeing Club, Williams Finance and Unapologetic as new student organizations.

TABLE will be hosting more Baxter Forums in the spring semester, open for any student who wishes to hear what the committees are doing and give their feedback and ideas to committee leaders.