Recent campus events and activism have highlighted a history of fraught relations between Campus Safety and Security (CSS) and minoritized students, particularly Black and Brown students, at the College. Students have recounted experiences of bias and racism with CSS officers, while CSS officers report an erosion of trust with students.
Last Tuesday, College Council (CC) denied Williams Initiative for Israel’s (WIFI) request to become a registered student organization. CC members voted anonymously, and only three council members participated in the contentious debate, with none stating the reason for their decision.
When students from the Afro-American Society occupied Hopkins Hall on April 4, 1969, the Record published an editorial that day responding to the students’ demands for, among other things, the formation of an Afro-American studies department and affinity housing for students of marginalized identities. The editorial offered broad support to the majority of the Afro-American Society’s demands but couched its language in calls for moderation and critiques of the “uncompromising tone” of student activists, terming them “a narrow and selfish interest group.”
This was hardly an isolated incident.
Creating space for minoritized students
On Friday, the Coalition Against Racist Education (CARE) Now released an open letter to the Board of Trustees with a list of 12 demands calling upon the College’s trustees to fulfill their “obligation to the well-being and safety of its students, faculty and staff.” A group of student activists seeking to continue “in the legacy of Black-led organizing efforts on the Williams College campus,” CARE Now was formed last year, its name recognizing the original CARE movement that occupied Jenness House in 1988. CARE Now’s letter indicates ways in which students believe the College can work toward making the College a less harmful place for those of marginalized identities and to take steps toward becoming a more inclusive institution.
Williams College claims as its mission, “to provide the finest possible liberal arts education.” Achieving this lofty goal depends not just upon the students and faculty, but – crucially – upon the efforts of the College’s administrative and support staff. The College community, before it can engage in any learning, must be safe, well-fed and in clean surroundings.
The time is now: Calling for the College to act upon recommendations and make Asian American studies a reality
In its recent report on the status of Asian American studies (AAS) at the College, a Curricular Planning Committee (CPC) working group recommended that the College make two tenure-track appointments for faculty with specialized training in AAS and formalize an AAS program with a concentration.
In offering its students the finest possible liberal arts education, the College must include this critical field of study that both offers unique methodologies and perspectives and strengthens other disciplines. In this critical moment for AAS at the College, after past attempts have been met with dismissal and hesitation, we at the Record call upon the College to take action and to commit to implementing the working group report’s recommendations without delay.
Centering inclusiveness in the College’s educational mission: A call for renewed attention to issues of minority faculty and staff well-being
With the recent leaves of Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Kai Green ’07 and Assistant Professor of English Kimberly Love, the College’s need to foster an inclusive environment to support faculty and staff from all backgrounds and of all identities has become ever more apparent. This concern has been long-standing; the Faculty-Staff Initiative (FSI) Report in 2009 centered the retention of faculty and staff of color as a pressing issue.
In addition to our main editorial this week, the Record’s editorial board wishes to recognize the College’s Board of Trustees for allowing students to replace any one summer earnings contribution with additional grant aid. This change, we believe, is a meaningful step towards more equitably allowing all students to pursue a fuller range of summer opportunities, and we commend the board for it.
On the Chicago Statement: Recognizing nuance and encouraging collaborative conversations around expression
In recent weeks, a faculty petition has circulated, recommending that the College adopt the Chicago Statement, a series of policies regarding disinvitation of speakers penned by the University of Chicago. The petition has produced ardent responses from students and faculty, including a student petition vehemently opposing the adoption of the Chicago Statement.
On the cancellation of ‘Beast Thing’: Considering representation and affirming our commitment to uplifting student voices
Last week, the College’s theatre department cancelled its fall show, Beast Thing, in response to students’ concerns about the play’s potentially traumatizing content and their experiences in the show.
Many students involved in the show expressed frustration with their inability to bring their concerns about the show’s content and overall working process to the creative team. The theatre department has a responsibility to treat students with respect and to make sure that their concerns are not being invalidated or de-legitimized.