Williams College Self Study for Accreditation
Friday, October 12, 2007
Report of the
External Review Committee
on Diversity Initiatives
Williams College, Williamstown, MA
May 1-3, 2005
Submitted by: Kimberly Goff-Crews, Dean of Students, Wellesley College, and Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Professor of History and Ethnic Studies and Director, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, Brown University
The basis for our report consists primarily of reading the 101 page Self Study Report (April 2005), and 1-1/2 days of meetings with administrators, faculty, students and staff, individually, in small groups, as standing committees, and other informal groupings. We met together with the President, student members of the Coordinating Committee for Campus Diversity Initiatives and the Committee on Diversity and Community, and some informal groups (staff and LGBT faculty and staff), but mostly, we met separately with other stakeholders. Our assignment was divided into two main components: Faculty (Hu-DeHart) and Student Life (Goff-Crews). A long and detailed schedule of meetings was provided to each of us, which we followed scrupulously and mostly on schedule. We did not have an opportunity to meet with any additional persons or groups during our campus visit.
Hu-DeHart met separately with the following individuals and groups of individuals:
The main issues covered during these meetings included recruitment and retention; culture and climate; workload issues; curriculum and pedagogy; programs and departments.
- Associate Dean of the Faculty John Gerry
- Dean of the Faculty (DoF) Thomas Kohut
- Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP), which included the President and DoF
- Assistant to the President for Affirmative Action Nancy McIntire
- Random group of minority faculty
- Select current and former chairs
- Faculty Steering Committee
- Committee on Education Policy
- Select group of program chairs
Goff-Crews met separately with the following individuals and groups of individuals:
The discussions covered a range of issues including support structures for student development; special academic programs; diversity among student life staff; residential life and the role of MCC.
- Dean of the College Nancy Roseman
- Associate and Assistant Deans of the College
- Faculty and Directors of special academic programs
- Select staff from student services
- Staff of the Multicultural Center (MCC)
- Committee on Undergraduate Life (CUL)
- Selected student leaders and students from the general student population
While the focus on diversity in the initiatives and the self study is clearly on race, with gender and class closely behind and sexuality largely absent, the discussions began to integrate all these critical differences and examine the intersectionality among them. Our report will reflect this vision of diversity.
The following report combines separate observations and recommendations made by each of us respectively, with some shared reflections at the end.
Analysis of Faculty Issues Submitted by Evelyn Hu-DeHart*
[*I first visited Williams in the late 1980s, invited by then Dean Preston Smith (now faculty at Mt. Holyoke), and have made numerous visits since, each time invited by a different group of students or faculty. In the late nineties, President Oakley asked me to campus to help broker the Latino student hunger strike. I also encouraged my first born, daughter Maya DeHart ('98) to choose Williams over Stanford. My most recent visit to Williams prior to this diversity consultation was in the Fall of this current academic year, when I was invited to speak by the Asian/Asian American student group and the MCC.Some General Observations:
During this long association with Williams and repeated visits to campus, I have seen tremendous progress in diversity, esp. the recruitment of students of color and international students. I was especially impressed during my last visit to learn about the new policy of extending need-blind admissions (and thereby equal financial aid opportunities) to international students, because that ensured more class diversity within that group.]
I note the acknowledgement in the Self Study that the focus is on Racial Diversity, with attention to Gender, and anticipation of more attention to Class ("Low Income"); to acknowledgement that diversity is in response to a historical pattern of legal and social segregation, exclusion and discrimination; and to the distinction between "racial diversity" and "international diversity." I also applaud the recognition that "Privilege" is missing from the vocabulary of the college's discourse on diversity, and that serious efforts should be made to find ways to bring "privilege" (not defined, but presumably referring to race or skin color, class, gender, sexuality) into focus and into the conversation.
Regarding students of color, while the number of Asian American students continues to rise steadily and outpace the proportion in the society at large (an "over-represented" group) mirroring the pattern in most highly selective institutions of higher learning, public or private, liberal arts or comprehensive, I am encouraged to see that Williams continues to reach out to African American and Latino students from across the country, maintaining reasonably respective percentages and striving to do better each year. In short, the progress to diversify the student body continues. Williams's stated goal of reaching out to more low income students and students of color is especially commendable, and is mindful of the need to put into place more structures and programs to ensure that these students will succeed at Williams academically and comfortably if not flourish, socially.
Regarding Faculty Diversity, clearly, women (predominately white women), have made great gains in the faculty, now almost reaching parity with (white) men, and are present in most departments. Most women, however, are clustered at the associate and untenured assistant ranks (not a surprise), so the challenge of mentoring, nurturing and seeing them through P&T remains a challenge, and the senior faculty, men and women, should be vigilant about their progress. This also means that as a group, women faculty are younger and have lower incomes, while struggling with higher rents and mortgages, child care, and perhaps long-distance marital and partner relationships, and even paying off student loans. Women faculty also highlight family and partner issues more than ever, so that questions regarding health benefits, child care, housing, etc., as well as workload definition, distribution, expectations, etc., all need to be broached and openly discussed, changing or adjusting policies if warranted, even if some of these go against entrenched practices and traditional culture.
For International Faculty, there may be another set of issues. For those who are not short term visitors from abroad, but on the permanent faculty, yet not U.S. citizens, transnational relationships between "homeland" and the US seem to characterize their work, life, and self-identity. They do not have the same history, practices and identity of US Minority Faculty, although many do ally and identify with Minority faculty issues, concerns, values, etc. after spending considerable time in the U.S. To factor this group into Faculty diversity, I find the term "transnational diversity" useful.
The critical group of faculty within Williams's Diversity Initiative and the Self Study Report are US minorities -- those who self identify with the four government named groups of non-Anglo white faculty, and may include immigrants who have received much of their education in the US, worked here for many years, and raised American-born children, and most of all, identify as "minorities" in the historical and sociological sense of the word, that is, as a subordinate group in relationship to the dominant or mainstream.
Within each of these groups, gender, class and sexuality are part of each individual's identity and experience, and often influence not only the substance of their scholarship (in terms of fields and direction), but most assuredly their perspectives, approaches, methods, pedagogy, and other social, professional and intellectual relationships and orientations.
All of these "differences" make up the basis or core of what we can call faculty diversity, which in turn is linked directly to diversity in the curriculum, in knowledge production or scholarship, and in pedagogy and classroom culture and climate.
However, it is also clear that here at Williams, the second oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts, there is still a presumption of a normative tradition and culture that is implicitly white, male, "middle class" and heterosexual, a culture that reflects and is in turn reinforced by the surrounding environment. This normative standard permeates the departments and into faculty scholarship and classrooms as well. Thus, faculty diversity is tacitly accepted even if not enthusiastically embraced by all in the Williams community if it means inclusion of racial/ethnic and gender/sexuality differences in members of the faculty as matters of cultural heritage and personal identity. But in opening up Williams for diversity, little thought has been given to what else about the practices of the institution and culture of the place needs to adjust, reform and change, so that diversity can flourish and become institutionalized, and no longer an add-on, a sidebar or shaded area in the textbook while the master narrative remains largely intact. In other words, is the model and goal of diversity at Williams an assimilationist (also known as "Anglo conformity") or a pluralistic one? Or as one senior (white male) faculty member I met with suggested: Diversity is about power sharing!
Most institutions of higher learning in the US practice and incorporate some aspects of diversity. Borrowing freely from Prof. James Banks*, a leading scholar of multicultural education, I see diversity initiatives falling into four categories and levels, each one entailing a higher degree of commitment for institutional change:
[*James A. Banks and Cherry A. McGee Banks, eds., Multicultural Education. Issues and Perspectives. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon., 1989 (and many subsequent editions).]
At any campus, one or more of these levels of approach can be operating at the same time. Indeed, at Williams, I see aspects of all four levels at work. This model may not appear to directly address some other diversity issues, such as how to get more women and under-represented minorities in engineering and the sciences, but as a conceptual framework, it can be modified to include diversity in the sciences as well.
- The Celebratory or 4-F approach (Food, Fad, Fiesta and Fun), similar to the Contributionist approach, "focuses on heroes, holidays, and discrete cultural elements." We do these diversity initiatives with comfort and ease, in that these are cultural events that generally do not challenge or disturb the status quo in any fundamental way. If anything, it adds color and flavor to campus programming. Typically students who are organized around racial/ethnic/cultural lines, and international students, take turns showcasing their cultures in music, dance, performance, films, food, etc. Programs such as Black History Month and Cinco de Mayo are quite well institutionalized on most campuses. Frequently, groups invite lecturers to present more serious discussions about a group's history, culture, politics, etc., so it can and does go beyond the more superficial or "consuming diversity" kind of celebration. This approach does not require a high degree of faculty diversity, in that it is not primarily faculty and curricular driven.
Williams is already doing a lot of good programming around cultural diversity, with help from the MCC and other offices on campus, and should continue. The emphasis is on cultural heritage and differences, all worthy of recognition and equal attention.
- The Additive approach, in which "contents, concepts, themes, and perspectives are added to the curriculum without changing its structure," began appearing in the curriculum two decades ago or longer. A common example is to add literary works by women writers and writers of color in an Introduction to American Literature course, inevitably displacing a few canonical works by white males to make room for "diversity." In history and the social sciences, these additives are the sidebars I referred to above. In some cases, a unit is added to the established syllabus without seriously rethinking the whole framework. This is often the first step that individual faculty take as they add diversity to their courses. It is still valuable, for it offers ALL faculty a chance to buy into, contribute and participate in diversity initiatives.
- The Transformation approach changes the basic assumptions about the curriculum and "enables students to view concepts, issues, events and themes from the perspectives of diverse ethnic and cultural groups." The mainstream is de-centered, and shares space with multiple perspectives. The sidebars are integrated into the main narrative. One should add here that the emphasis is no longer on celebrating differences as cultural diversity, but in deconstructing historically situated and socially constructed "differences" that result in structured inequalities, exclusion and marginalization; obviously these are not the kinds of differences worthy of celebration and preservation, but rather, give rise to resistance and re-formation. The transformation approach, then, seeks also to give voice and agency to the historically excluded, to validate and document their histories, creative productions and experiences which have not been deemed worthy of serious academic attention. Williams has long invested and embarked on this approach, in the form of its Women's and Gender studies program, African American studies program, US Latina/o studies program, and the fledgling Asian American studies program. For this approach, as Williams has already learned, dedicated faculty trained in these studies must be hired to anchor the programs, create courses and provide stability and coherence in the curriculum, and therein lies the challenge, for the path has not been easy or smooth.
Like many other institutions, Williams has also realized that this is the surest and most efficient way to diversity the faculty, for those scholars and teachers engaged in these studies are also predominately women and feminists, and men and women from racial/ethnic groups. With few exceptions, Williams has learned that, for a variety of reasons, traditional disciplinary departments have been reluctant to hire interdisciplinary scholars in these studies -- particularly in the ethnic studies program. Without faculty, these programs which lie at the heart of curricular diversity cannot flourish and will likely wither. Faced with this impasse, Williams has broken with tradition by hiring faculty of color directly into these programs (mostly untenured), knowing full well that such a bold move presents both opportunities and risks, for the faculty involved and the institution alike.
- Banks concludes his model with a fourth level of engagement, which he calls the "social action approach," when students apply what they have learned to "important social issues and take actions to help solve them." I don't see this as exclusive to diversity initiatives, but rather, as central to the values of a liberal arts education, which expects knowledge to be used to serve the common good.
I offer the following recommendations for the Williams faculty community to consider, all of which I have discussed with one or more of the many faculty groups I met during my visitation.
I am certain I have not exhausted all the possibilities for advancing faculty and curricular diversity at Williams. I hope that what I have proposed above for consideration by the Williams faculty will stimulate further action and innovation.
- Articulate a clear conceptual framework for Diversity at Williams, and continue to engage the entire Williams community in a continuing conversation about the vision and specific goals, using whatever means available and appropriate to engage faculty and students across the curriculum; the Self Study is only a beginning, far from the end. What does Williams mean by Diversity? The Self Study begins to do that, but seems to shrink from completing the task of stating a clear framework that provides guidance and coherence for the various diversity initiatives. There is considerable confusion and some resistance to the current diversity self study. Diversity is a dialogue between the core and the periphery, between the margins and the mainstream, so diversity is not for women and minorities only, but must engage both sides of the same coin, or both ends of the same spectrum. We are all stakeholders in diversity, but initially some will have more to gain, others to lose; some will feel more empowered, others destabilized and discomforted. As noted above, the Self study is fully aware of the tension in the brief reference to "privilege."
- To encourage more faculty across the curriculum to take an interest in diversifying their own courses, consider implementing some version of the Curriculum Transformation Project (CTP)* pioneered at the U. Maryland and the U. of Washington by Betty Schmitz and Johnnella Butler. (depts.washington.edu/ctp) The idea is to move diversity across the curriculum. The basic framework is for the President, Provost or Dean of the Faculty to invite a group of faculty from various departments, including the sciences, who teach introductory or survey courses in their fields, to revise their syllabus towards more inclusion of diversity as content and perspectives (intellectual diversity) and in pedagogy and classroom climate. Inclusion can be at the basic level of contributionist or additive approach, or at a more profound level of rethinking the entire framework or organizing principle and course materials, hence the grandiose project title of transformation. In addition, pedagogy in and outside the classroom, as well as recruitment and retention of under-represented student groups, are also part of the transformation. Regardless of what level of engagement, the faculty embarks on a process of re-tooling and re-discovery, often finding out much more about the new methods and approaches, research and publications, and creative works, of their own field or discipline. Participants typically meet once a month to discuss their own courses with each other, to share and solicit ideas and insights, offer critique, engage with occasional guest speakers, and act as a support group for each other; they occasionally work in their divisional groupings to share more focused resources and discuss pedagogical challenges. Ethnic Studies colleagues can be invited to ignite the conversations and act as resources and consultants. As incentives, participants are provided with a supplementary salary stipend, a research and resource materials stipend, a student research assistant (a mechanism to allow students to be actively engaged in the process). At the end of the year, participants present their revised syllabi to each other, or to an open campus forum.
This "diversity across the curriculum" approach supplements the ethnic studies programs and is one proven way to involve a broader spectrum of faculty in curricular diversity.
[*We implemented a semblance of this project at Brown two years ago, consisting of core faculty in English, Philosophy, History, Classics, Art and Architecture, Sociology, Political Science, Public Policy, Medicine, Musicology, Psychology, Education.]
- Having hired several young faculty of color and women faculty into programs without tenuring authority, extreme caution must be taken to ensure that these untenured faculty of color are well mentored towards tenure, not marginalized beyond what is already a certain degree of marginalization given the absence of a tenure home department, protected against excessive student contact hours, mentoring and service, social and intellectual isolation, and all other challenges that might make life difficult and their retention at Williams questionable. I am certain the Dean of the Faculty and the senior faculty in the various hiring programs have created mechanisms and structures to address these and other issues. I would like to recommend two other ideas as options for your consideration.
One, create a position of Faculty Advocate; this would be a senior faculty with deep familiarity with faculty affairs processes and culture of Williams, who as advocate would actually assume the perspective of the young faculty of color, and not act merely as a neutral ombudsperson. The advocate would be readily available to the untenured faculty for advice on annual professional reports, questions and concerns regarding the structure and personnel created for their professional advancement at Williams, and all other issues regarding their work and lives at Williams. Without the benefit of a chair and a cohort of senior faculty that their departmental counterparts have access to, these "floating" untenured faculty of color can turn to the advocate to fill that void, and gain confidence that their needs and concerns are attended to seriously. The advocate need not be a faculty of color him/herself, but one who obviously has a deep commitment to faculty diversity at Williams, and a good understanding of climate and professional issues impacting untenured faculty of color.
A second suggestion to the Williams faculty and administration is to consider creating an Interdisciplinary Department or department-like unit that would serve those faculty hired directly into programs in the way departments do when they function well, that is, provide senior faculty to mentor junior faculty, close colleagues for collaboration in research, teaching and curriculum development, and standing vis-à-vis other colleagues housed in departments. Many institutions have already created such large interdisciplinary units, an increasingly popular option being the integration of ethnic studies programs (and sometimes women studies as well) into existing American studies programs and departments. The University of Michigan and the University of Southern California are two outstanding examples. Williams has an established American Studies program that can be upgraded to departmental status if it incorporates the other ethnic studies programs into its structure. It can still keep the established ethnic specific degrees in Afro American and US Latina/o studies, while offering one or more comparative options within a US perspective, or comparative with diasporic and transnational subjects and perspectives. An American Studies coordinating framework will also allow Asian American studies (now with two dedicated faculty) and in the future, some Native American studies (no dedicated faculty yet), to be more readily incorporated into the curriculum, as well house the faculty.
- Broaden and deepen the pool of under-represented minority candidates for diversity hiring across the curriculum. We all know that the opportunity to hire such candidates is only as good as the pool; and we have all heard many excuses that blame the pool for being too small or shallow. One way to enlarge the pool is to go beyond the usual Ph.D. granting institutions that elite colleges such as Williams usually fish for candidates.* In the aftermath of the court-mandated de-segregation of public colleges and universities in the South, the Southern Regional Educational Board (SREB) in Atlanta created a network called Compact for Faculty Diversity to mentor and promote the careers of under-represented minority doctoral candidates, focusing on engineering and physical, life and biomedical sciences, with some attention to the social sciences and humanities. Faculty across the country participate in the annual Institute for Teaching and Mentoring meetings to mentor these young scholars and also to recruit for their own institutions. The Compact is also partnering with other organizations and programs interested in the same goal, such as the NSF Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professioriate (AGEP) and the NSF Postdoctoral Fellows Program, the NIH Bridges to the Professoriate Program, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Minority Ph.D. Program, and the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program.**
[*The recruitment last year of Bolin fellow Julia Camacho by history and American Studies Profs. Kunzel and Wong is a good example of fishing in a new pool. Only the second Ph.D. candidate in the History department at the University of Texas at El Paso, a regional Research II campus of the vast UTexas system, Camacho completed a successful Bolin year at Williams, where she proved herself an excellent teacher and more than held her own intellectually.I encourage Chairs, especially science chairs, to join the Compact for Faculty Diversity and SREB at its next (12th) annual meeting in Arlington, Virginia on Oct. 27-30, to meet and recruit some of these young men and women to their faculty. In the meanwhile, the chairs can go online to www.sreb.org and email@example.com for more information on the Compact for Faculty Diversity and the Institute for Teaching and Mentoring, as well as the list of current doctoral candidates. The Director of the SREB State Doctoral Scholars Program is Dr. Ansley Abraham (404-875-9211, firstname.lastname@example.org). (A good idea is to invite Dr. Abraham to Williams for a consultation in the early Fall, before the annual meeting.)
**At the last Compact meeting I met a young Chicano McNair scholar from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, interested in pursuing a doctorate in Brazilian Studies. He had never heard of the excellent Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Department at Brown, nor had Brown ever thought about recruiting from a place called Las Cruces. I put them in touch with each other. The happy outcome is that he is starting his Ph.D. in Brazilian Studies at Brown next Fall.]
In addition to finding new strategies to increase the pool, the Bolin fellowships can be tweaked, even redesigned. It appears that the Bolin is a grossly under-utilized resource for recruiting under-represented women and minorities to the Williams faculty. I suggest that the President or Dean convene a committee to study how the Bolin can be used more effectively, especially as a tool for science and social science departments to recruit under-represented minority candidates. Link the Bolin with the Compact for Faculty Diversity to maximize the potential of both resources. For example, a more concerted effort should be made to tie the Bolin more closely to anticipated vacancies. If a Williams chair discovers a promising minority graduate student through the Compact for Faculty Diversity and also anticipates a vacancy in the field of the graduate student, that department should be given every incentive to recruit the doctoral candidate as a Bolin; every effort should then be made by the senior faculty to mentor this young scholar into a competitive candidate for the vacancy. Another idea is to consider converting one or two Bolins from a dissertation fellowship to a postdoctoral fellowship, which would make it more attractive to certain candidates and departments. Once on campus, the Bolin postdoc can experience first hand the very favorable conditions for scientists who are interested in research as well as teaching and mentoring students, especially from under-represented communities.
Finally, identify under-utilized academic resources already on campus and afford them an opportunity to teach courses that add to diversity in the curriculum.*
[*One such person I have identified is MCC director Dr. Gail Bouknight-Davis, who has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Brown and an expert on the Caribbean, an area of the Americas not well represented in the curriculum even as Williams actively recruits students from the region. She can obviously contribute to diversity in the Anthropology department, which currently lacks faculty and curricular diversity, so it is a mystery to me why she has not been offered an affiliation with her disciplinary field and invited to teach a course on a regular basis.]
- Re-design the Peoples and Cultures requirement, which seems to have lost its focus and has become a near meaningless diversity initiative, serving an unclear purpose that some students resent and many could not fathom. Find a new rationale for a diversity requirement if there is general consensus that such a requirement is still a good and necessary component of a Williams education. A good example to study is the Berkeley model for its required diversity general education course initiated some ten years ago. The initiative stipulated new courses that faculty designed specifically for this requirement; these courses had to conform to certain clear criteria and structured as comparative US cultures (one majority or white, one minority), hence comparative and relational in focus. In addition, a special office was set up to oversee, guide and provide necessary resources to faculty designing these courses.* Whatever the new requirement at Williams is to be called, the point is that the courses should be intentionally developed to meet a clear set of criteria collectively determined by faculty and students within Williams's conceptual framework for diversity. One possible approach is to encourage faculty within each of the three curricular divisions to work together, each division addressing the key issues relating to diversity. For example, if social science departments at Williams already examine issues such as stereotype and stigma (Psychology), racial and gender disparities in income, health and education (Economics), intersectionality of race, class, gender, sexuality (Sociology), the historical and social construction of whiteness (History), how can these courses be modified to tie in more explicitly to a diversity requirement? The Physical and Natural Sciences can examine hidden and exposed biases in the values, assumptions and practices of their fields, including pedagogical issues and the low participation of African Americans, Native Americans and US Latinos/as in most of the sciences.
[*This diversity requirement at Berkeley was initiated over ten years ago, so things might be different today. Now so many years later, my recollection is a bit hazy, and I may not have all the fact entirely correct, but someone at Williams should be able to research the history and details of this requirement from inception to the present.]There may be a tie-in with the Curriculum Transformation Project (CTP) discussed in Recommendation no. 1 above, in that some faculty willing to re-examine, revamp, re-design their introductory or survey course with Diversity in mind might choose to follow the clear criteria set up for the redefined Diversity requirement.
Analysis of Student Life Issues by Kimberly Goff-Crews
This is a summary of observations and suggestions about enhancing the work done by Williams College in the area of diversity. It is based on a review of the Williams College Diversity Initiatives Self Study dated April 2005, accompanying exhibits, additional materials on campus events and conversations with a number of students, staff and faculty from the Williams community.* These conversations took place during a visit to campus on May 1-3, 2005. The general list of individuals and groups of individuals that I met with is described above.
[*While I enjoyed meeting members of the various constituencies, I was particularly impressed by the student leaders with whom I spoke. They were honest, thoughtful and quite adept at situational analysis. While critical of some aspects of life at Williams, they clearly love the College and are committed to celebrating its strengths while working on its weaknesses. I spent a lot of time with them during my visit and have incorporated much of what they shared with me into my thinking.]My focus during the review was on issues impacting student life and development as opposed to faculty affairs. Specifically, I examined the College's efforts to ensure and encourage comparable educational experiences for all students and its ability to support the non-academic developmental needs of its current diverse student body. For purposes of this report, comparable experience means that all students can achieve their academic potential no matter where they start and have similar but not identical academic outcomes as assessed by standard measures.
Several conversations with students, administrators and faculty revealed aspects of the Williams College culture and future planning that are particularly relevant to this review. College culture encourages students to take a great deal of responsibility for their individual progress and for developing the overall culture of student life. Students are typically proactive in finding an advisor and maintaining an appropriate advising relationship. Although there are some academic support services available, there is no centralized learning center to support overall academic development.
The new Office of Campus Life supports all student activities on campus. Students and administrators consider it to be very effective. Most social activities are planned by the triumvirate of individual student clubs and organizations, ACE and the MCC. MCC and the organizations it supports are largely responsible for diversity programming on campus. In fact, the MCC functions as a student activities office; there is no requirement or function that involves assessment or implementation of policy and practice related to diversity.
Although the Office of Campus Life trains the JAs (students who serve as resident advisors for first year students) and HCs (students who support the upperclass housings system), it appears from my conversations with students and administrators that the JA system is still student-run with little administrative intervention. Upperclass students are currently allowed to choose their residence each year through an all-campus lottery system. As eloquently described in the Report of the Committee on Undergraduate Life dated February 28, 2005 (CUL Report), this housing system denies students the opportunity to get the full benefit of Williams's diversity by interacting with a wide range of students in sustained and meaningful ways. The College will implement a new housing system, the Williams House Plan, in 2006-07. In addition, the College is building a new campus center with facilities that will further ensure more frequent and serendipitous interaction between students, faculty and staff.
Interestingly, data indicates that students of color are often well represented in cross-college organizations such as college government and the JA and HC systems. (Self-Study, pages 16-18) However, as a result of the focus on student autonomy and the current social activities and residential life patterns that support it, students mostly interact in the silos of small friendship groups, clubs and organizations with few opportunities to interact with the broad spectrum of the Williams community except in periods of crisis.
Another Williams initiative that will have a significant impact on the direction of future initiatives involves increasing the number of students from a low socio-economic background on campus. Williams has already begun to increase the number of admittees in this pool. The administration is beginning to think about additional support mechanisms to support these students in the future.
As one would expect at a small liberal arts college of Williams's caliber, the faculty support student development in a variety of ways. Students rate faculty interaction highly and count it as one of the key elements of a Williams education. Most students have close relationships with administrative staff by virtue of the services that staff provide to them on a daily basis and/or by virtue of student employment in the various departments.
Based on my brief conversations with students, faculty, administrators and staff, I offer the following recommendations:
The work that Williams has done and continues to do in this area is encouraging. I have highlighted several possible action steps but know that there are others I would be happy to discuss these issues further or other issues that are not addressed in this report. However, like Evelyn, I hope that these proposals provide some direction and spur further thought.
- Create centralized academic support center: Williams, like most elite small liberal arts colleges, recruits from among the best and the brightest students in the country. Although each student has a high level of pre-college achievement, such achievement does not automatically mean that every student will experience the academic life of the College in a way that is comparable (but not identical) to his or her peers' experience. As described in the Self Study (pages 15-19 and appendices), statistics indicate that some students of color may not be achieving academically in the same ways as their peers. The wonderful initiative to increase the socioeconomic diversity of the Williams community may increase the number of students who need additional support. In order to ensure that every student reaches his or her potential, the College will need to create a centralized and professional center for academic support. It is recommended that the College support the plan proposed by the Dean of the College to create such a center within the new Student Center. Ideally, all support services across campus would be centralized in the center, a director would be appointed, and soon additional services could be developed to address specific needs for underprepared students. One such initiative could be the creation of specialized study groups for the science gateway courses. See discussion below.
- Consider reshaping transition programs: Currently, Williams supports two pre-orientation summer programs, Summer Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS) and Summer Sciences (SS). These programs are designed to help 35 to 40 African American, Latino/a, Native American students and first generation freshmen successfully transition into college. The programs include classes comparable to first year courses. Both faculty and peer tutors assist students throughout the program; faculty serve as the students' faculty advisor throughout their first year. (Self Study, p. 22). The programs impact a small number of students given the size of the target student population on campus. And it is unclear how the program ultimately impacts student participants; program organizers are currently assessing effectiveness. However, anecdotally, students noted that the student participants typically had a better advising experience and closer connections with faculty than those who did not participate in the program. Given that the overall advising system relies heavily on student initiative and thus advising experiences can be uneven, this is a significant impact.
As program organizers complete their review of the programs and plan for the future, the College should consider developing a longer transition program during term time. It would be better for students to have a more formalized long term relationship with faculty and a set of activities and supports in place during the entire first year and the first half of the sophomore year or until they are required to formally select an advisor in the major. The program could incorporate elements of supplemental instruction (see e.g., University of Missouri, Kansas City Supplemental Instruction Website, www.umkc.edu/cad/si) and model honors programs by including a selection process and a specified and required commitment from students to participate. The Science Technology and Research Scholars program at Yale University is one that the faculty might look at as a model. Although it is specific to the sciences, it can easily be adapted to work in the humanities. In addition, Williams can learn from sister schools involved in the Gateway Course Project, a project designed to experiment with supplemental discussion in similarly situated schools. The project is supported by the Consortium on High Achievement and Success (CHAS). Williams is already a member of the Consortium.
- Use New Residential Plan to Enhance Initiative: The implementation of the proposed Williams House system provides a wonderful opportunity to enhance the sense of a residential community at Williams and enhance the diversity initiative itself. The new proposal will create five clusters of housing on campus. Students will be able to affiliate with a particular housing cluster after their first year. As described in the CUL Report, the Office of Campus Life will continue to work with House Coordinators, JAs, and a newly created House Council system to create a residential environment where students can live and learn from each other. (CUL Report, pages 5-7) The CUL recommends that faculty become affiliated with the clusters. (CUL Report, page 11-12) In addition, members of the MCC should also be assigned to ensure that each community has at least one member with expertise in multicultural issues.
Although the College has tried to do a "full blown diversity workshop" for JAs and HCs in the past with little success (Self-Study, page 29), it is recommended the MCC and Office of Campus Life collaborate to develop a different training module for both the HCs and JAs, one that goes beyond a panel that describes available resources. Both departments might begin their collaboration by understanding the needs of the current student body about diversity issues, seeking input from current JAs and HCs about what type of training would have been helpful this year, canvassing other colleges and universities for programs that work and, finally, experimenting with training to develop a more enhanced module that is specific to the Williams experience. The new cluster format will also provide a forum for the College to do specific programming around diversity issues in general and to work with students in small groups to address specific incidents on campus as necessary. The current diversity issues on campus provide an impetus for change around training.
- Enhance Role of Associate and Assistant Deans in the Diversity Initiative Efforts: As a matter of philosophy and practice, the associate and assistant deans in the Office of the Dean of the College serve all students on campus albeit some have very specific responsibilities for certain segments of the student body. However, both students and administrators noted that the associate and assistant deans could be a larger presence on campus generally and with respect to the multicultural community in particular. In various conversations, students of color stated that they were uncertain which dean they should turn to should individual issues with a multicultural component arise. Students of color do not only look to the MCC to resolve issues, and rightly so. They also stated that they would like to see the associate and assistant deans at more events in order to get to know them. The associate and assistant deans stated that it would be helpful to them if one of the deans would hold a leadership role within the office on policy and practice with respect to the diversity issues on campus. This person would serve as the deans' liaison to the MCC and Minco, helping both departments within the office partner on short and long term projects in this area. A previous dean fulfilled this role among her colleagues. The loss of her presence is keenly felt by administrators and students alike.
The associate and assistant deans must be more connected to and informed by the diversity initiative and campus life in general. Assigning one dean to address diversity issues campus wide in partnership with the MCC and Minco will help the central dean's office with its work in this area. This person will also be identified by the student community as a primary contact when they do not know where to turn. In addition, the associate and assistant deans should be assigned to the campus clusters in order to increase their overall visibility on campus. As part of future follow-up to the review, the College may also want to enlist the ideas and aid of the associate and assistant deans in the implementation phase of the initiative.
- Make campus protocol and expertise on racial incidences transparent: Student leaders stated that when racial or other difficult incidences occur on campus, they are uncertain about to whom to turn and about appropriate campus protocol. Relevant policies and procedures are published by the College but the community does not always read them. The College's proposed steps to increase community awareness of relevant procedures and practice should be followed as soon as possible. (Self-Study, pages 84-85.) The College will also need to increase the visibility of key personnel who can assist students with particular problems and the standard protocol for resolving issues. It is strongly recommended that the College pursue its idea of appointing a special ombudsperson with authority to address issues as appropriate and review and revise practice and procedure as necessary. The ombudsperson should report to the Office of the President but might be housed in the MCC. Again, recent campus events provide ample opportunity for the College to continue to focus attention on appropriate policy and procedures.
- Enhance diversity of Health Services staff: The College should continue to make every effort to increase the diversity of Health Services staff, with a particular focus on those providing counseling services. A diverse staff in this area will better support the initiative. In the meantime, Health Services staff can continue to seek training on issues of particular concern to minority students on a regular basis. Dr. Howard Blue, Assistant Clinical Professor, Psychiatrist and Director of Clinical Services at Yale University Health Services has done a lot of research on the developmental needs of students of color. In addition, Dr. Robin Cook-Nobles, Director of the Stone Counseling Center at Wellesley College, may provide insight about the needs of women of color, LGBT students, and women with low socio-economic backgrounds. Health Services may also want to establish formal counseling relationships with appropriate personnel of color in the area to supplement their staffing and develop a potential pool of candidates should positions become available.
- Regularly discuss diversity issues among senior staff: Despite the fact that the diversity initiative is a community-based initiative, senior staff will need to continue to be at the forefront of change in this area. At Wellesley College, members of senior staff (and certain members of their staff) meet every month and a half to discuss multiculturalism and diversity issues on campus and how they impact our jobs and are impacted by each of us individually in our roles. These discussions help unearth our assumptions about diversity and multicultural issues in general. The consistency of our meetings allow us to challenge each others' assumptions honestly and to work through issues to come to some agreements regarding next steps, if any. The discussions also help participants sustain the vision and the energy for change. As a result we are becoming less reactive and more proactive. Williams senior staff and other key administrators may wish to create a similar small group as a long-term outcome of the initiative.
- Consider creating fellowship opportunities to attract more diverse senior administrators to Williams: The College is committed to increasing the diversity of its staff in all areas. Evelyn and I had a brief conversation with Human Resource professionals and members of the administrative staff to generate a lot of ideas about how to increase the pool of applicants for a variety of jobs. One idea that I would like to reiterate is the possibility of developing a fellowship program (or alternatively using programs such as the ACE Fellowship Program) to attract mid-level administrators to Williams for a short period of time. The College has fabulous senior staff who would be good mentors for mid-level academic administrators who need an additional perspective and experience. Having such administrators even in the short term will increase staff diversity and furnish the College with longer term "outsiders" who can provide a fresh perspective as the College implements aspects of the initiative. It would also help develop a pipeline of professionals and enhance the presence of the College in special populations' professional societies.
- Recognize and enhance support staff efforts to support student development: Support staff across the institution are often a lifeline for many students on campus. Food service personnel, department secretaries and the like interact with students in informal ways by either providing daily services to students and/or supervising student employees. Therefore, support staff will be critical to the overall success of any diversity initiative. However, the make-up of the support staff overall is not as diverse as the College would hope. Students and administrators reported a recent incident where a staff member made some inaccurate assumptions about an international students' ability to communicate well with library patrons. Support staff can and should be engaged in this initiative and encouraged to identify what they need to know to help them support the College's agenda. I recommend that the College formally acknowledge this reality in future conversations (if it has not already done so) and train the staff about diversity issues on a regular basis. One mechanism the College might consider to help train and rally the staff around this initiative is to send them to or develop a support staff conference that addresses these issues from their perspective. Again, CHAS sponsors such a conference and has supported other schools who have had such conferences on their campus.
Shared Observations and Closing CommentsThere are a few general observations that we would like to make. First, the College is to be commended on taking up the Diversity Initiative. The comprehensive Self-Study documents a body of impressive work in this are and list of other recommendations for improvement. Many colleges and universities across the country are experiencing similar challenges on campus. Few are systematically analyzing strengths and weakness with the energy and openness to change that characterizes the Williams's initiative.
It is clear however, that not everyone in the community is operating with the same definition of diversity or even with the same sense of urgency about the need for improvement. Some campus constituencies are not present in the conversations; others see themselves on the margins. As the College moves forward, it will need to articulate a clearer view of what diversity means at Williams. In so doing, the various groups on campus will need to be actively and creatively engaged in the conversations. We also recommend that the College enhance its analysis of the needs of the LGBT and faith communities on campus. These are key groups within the overall discussion of diversity and multiculturalism. Therefore, student, administrators and faculty in these communities will need to be more fully engaged in the conversation.
We also noticed that the role that the MCC plays on campus is quite limited. It appears that the MCC functions mainly to support student activities and provide some diversity training. Although we are sure that the MCC has some role in resolving some of the issues that have developed as a result of explosive campus incidents, it is unclear exactly what that role has been. In addition, it is clear that the MCC does not play a crucial role in reviewing policy and practice across the institution. We recommend that the College review the role of the MCC in the diversity work being done on campus with a view toward deepening its work on various levels.
The sheer number of recommendations proposed by community members and the external reviewers may seem overwhelming. We recommend that in the short term, the College focus on providing the framework for further discussion, increasing community awareness of relevant procedure, appointing an ombudsperson, implementing suggested changes in faculty and staff recruitment as soon as possible and training staff in order to enhance their role as a support to students.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Assessment of Faculty and Staff
Diversity and Satisfaction
Produced by Cambridge Hill Partners
During the 2004-2005 academic year, Williams College launched a series of Diversity Initiatives, an effort that has as its primary goal the generation of ideas about steps the College can take to ensure that all faculty, staff, and students can thrive at the institution. Integral to the Initiatives was an extensive Self Study that resulted in a series of documents, data sets, and recommendations addressing issues of diversity relating to students, faculty, and administrative staff.
One of the questions posed in the Self Study was “How effective is Williams College in creating a workplace that serves the needs of a diverse faculty and staff?” To address this question, the Faculty Steering Committee engaged Cambridge Hill Partners, Inc. (CHP) to conduct confidential interviews and focus groups with a diverse group of faculty and administrative staff members.
The Steering Committee outlined the following objectives for this project:
- To determine the differences in the satisfaction of faculty and administrative staff members as a result of intrinsic factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
- To develop a deeper understanding of the differential experiences that these individuals have at Williams College.
- To create the broadly based understanding and buy-in among faculty and staff members necessary to implement recommendations resulting from the Diversity Initiatives successfully.
Information about students and the experiences of students was not a specified objective of the study. However, during the course of the interviews and focus groups with faculty and staff, many discussed the challenges of diversity within the student body. For some, it seemed easier to focus on students than on the dynamics of diversity among faculty and staff. As a result, we are including findings about student experience, recognizing that this information comes from the perspectives of faculty and staff only. CHP did not interview any students.
Three consultants from Cambridge Hill Partners individually interviewed fifty faculty and staff members and conducted seven focus groups during mid February 2006. Additionally, CHP consultants reviewed the College’s Self Study, two consultant reports from 2005, preliminary data from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) survey on faculty satisfaction, and faculty demographics.
|Rank||Number of Participants|
|Race/Ethnicity||Number of Participants|
|Gender||Number of Participants|
The findings have been collected from the individual interviews and focus groups. It should be noted that some of the information presented below appears contradictory because it represents the experiences and perceptions of a diverse group of individuals with multiple roles and experiences at Williams College. More important than specific individual comments is the gestalt that these data create and the opportunity to reflect on their overall meaning. When individuals’ statements are used, they are meant to be representative of particular views that are important to consider. Individual speakers will not be identified nor will numeric counts of how many times a particular statement occurred or was offered. Unless otherwise noted, the statements are meant to represent themes that emerged in multiple interviews and, given the purposes of the project, are important to consider.
With any project of this nature, it is likely that more time and discussion will be devoted to areas for improvement. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the many strengths relative to diversity and faculty and staff satisfaction present at the College. Williams is generally perceived to be a good place to be and to work by faculty and staff. There was acknowledgement in the interviews that the College has a desire to be inclusive and welcoming and that there is an abundance of goodwill and good intention. Furthermore, there is a strong history of being willing to take on difficult initiatives to change, e.g. eliminating fraternities and admitting women students, as well as a track record of progress relative to diversity.
During the last thirty years, the face of the College has changed dramatically yet the mission has remained the same.
Williams has a genuinely good heart. The College really wants to be diverse, but it is hard given the location to forge any type of racial diversity—there is no black community here.
I stay because Williams is great for someone who loves to teach and conduct research. The students are exceptional and of high caliber. The College is well resourced. My department is nice, and we get along well.
This track record of success is particularly apparent in the student arena with the successful recruitment of greater numbers of domestic minority and international students.
The state of diversity here has improved over the years. It is less homogenous among both faculty and students. There are a lot more international students coming to Williams. The fact that need-blind admissions has been extended to international students has helped this trend.
Finally, some progress has been made in the curriculum, most notably with the establishment of a program in Latino/Latina Studies.
We are doing better in hiring faculty of color. There are now enough Latino/Latina faculty that there is a support group. Latino/Latina Studies is an outstanding program.
NEED TO DEFINE DIVERSITY
It was apparent in many of the interviews that there is little consensus as to what diversity is or what it means for Williams College. For some individuals, diversity is affirmative action; for others, it is numerical representation; for some, it is more about diversity of thought than personal identity; for still others, it is a complex interaction of elements of personal identity.
Diversity has come to mean “visible diversity” and less intellectual diversity.
A big issue among faculty when you talk about diversity is the fear that standards will be lowered. Hiring more diverse faculty means lowering standards. I have heard some hires referred to as “affirmative action hires.”
I hear, “Aren’t we all the same? You have a college education. Why do you have to have labels? Why do racial groups always separate themselves?” We have to keep pounding on why diversity is important.
This lack of common understanding has several results. For some, it compromises the credibility of the current initiatives. They question whether there is a strong desire and institutional will for sustainable change. They question whether the College truly wants diversity or merely the assimilation of diverse individuals. For others, achieving diversity is undesirable because it represents a diminishment of standards of quality.
It feels like we’ve gone around in circles on the topic of diversity and multiculturalism—here we go again. We are at heart a conservative college that is tinkering around the edges.
We want diversity, but still homogenization—it’s a disconnect.
There is a lack of courage within the institution. It is easy to set-up committees to assess issues of diversity. It is easy to hire consultants to tell us what we should do. It is extremely difficult to take significant action.
Right now Williams is first in everything in U.S. News but this—that’s what motivates the institutional interest.
Curriculum is central—the fulcrum. It affects faculty hiring and the recruitment of students. Diversifying faculty and student populations results in a decrease in standards. Williams is fighting over second-tier black students. The first tier of black students goes to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc. There is a big difference between first- and second-tier black students.
In all cases, the issue is made more complex by what is perceived as an institution-wide reluctance to participate in dialogue and debate about this issue.
The case for diversity is not well established and is not discussed because it might raise debate. Ethnic minority students need role models—they come to me for conversations.
The population at Williams is not sophisticated or well informed. Having worked at other colleges, I am surprised with the lack of diversity. At Williams there seems to be pressure to conform. Differences are not celebrated here.
The institution does push a lot and expect assimilation. For instance, when people of color act or behave in ways that are familiar to their cultural background, members of the College community do not like it. Don’t be too visible—white parents don’t want to see gays or hear about race during parents’ weekend.
There is a trend on campus to not bring in a range of perspectives that is necessary for vigorous academic debates. . . As a result, there is a sense of mainstreaming.
We do not have a huge range of styles among faculty. The myth of Williams is that faculty have to be of a certain style. This creates a mismatch with students who have diverse needs.
It will be a tragedy if we do not take this moment in time to talk to each other and work through these issues. This may be a moment for top-down approach—taking a leadership stand.
There is also a variety of experiences within the larger community. By most accounts, Williamstown is a great place to raise a white family, but it is a much harder place for people of color and for single and/or gay individuals. The lack of social opportunities combined with limited employment opportunities for spouses and partners often results in faculty commuting on weekends and during holidays. This further reinforces the isolation from the campus and community that some experience.
It’s challenging being a young professional—there are very few here. We have to create our own network and connections. There are only so many people under 27; if you are not a professor, there’s a line drawn. There’s very little interaction (between staff and faculty).
I’m young, I’m single—I likely won’t last here; it’s brutal. You get to know people through your kids. There’s no network for those who don’t have kids.
I don’t know if I can survive another year. My circle of friends never grows—it’s very hard.
A black visiting faculty freaked out at how white it is here and decided to go to New York City a lot. It’s hard to get into the culture.
Living in Williamstown is really hard. I’m not part of the town and I don’t know how to be part of the town. I am nervous about raising a dark child in Williamstown since daycare and school seem like very white spaces.
Most faculty of color leave because there is no sense of community here. It’s also hard to be single here at the College. This environment is better suited for families.
BARRIERS TO DIVERSE RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
Not surprisingly, the two reasons cited most often for difficulty recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and administrators at Williams were the location of the College and limited pools of diverse candidates. There was some resignation that the College has little or no control over these two factors and that there is little more that can be done. Other faculty members were frustrated that the conversation often ends with these limitations.
I’m fairly pragmatic, we do OK, we’re not extraordinarily diverse, but we are a small New England college. The problem with women and minorities in the sciences is endemic—the numbers just aren’t there.
We cannot compete with Princeton or Yale for top-notch black faculty.
The story line of “no one wants to come here because of the location” gets old after a while. Look at Dartmouth College. They have made significant strides in the area of diversity particularly given their frat boy history.
Interviewees also pointed to issues that could be addressed or addressed differently by the College. These included ramping up efforts relative to spousal employment, revamping recruitment processes and practices, and addressing the differential experiences of minority faculty and candidates.
The isolation of Williamstown requires different incentives for locating here. We need to work on spousal hires.
I am in a commuting relationship. It is very difficult and very tiring. The residential college idea impacts me too; I get worried about leaving on the weekend.
Spousal employment needs work. Almost no husbands are using their Ph.D.s. There is a huge resource of trailing spouses to fill leave vacancies.
My spouse never heard when he applied for job on campus—not even a rejection letter.
Most, although not all, of the women interviewed did not report differential treatment by their male colleagues.
My experience couldn’t be better. I never felt a problem regarding rank, gender, or sexual orientation. Of the three places I have worked this is the best.
Coming more recently, I have reaped the benefit especially in relation to women.
Women are not fully integrated into the life of the campus. It is a male model here at Williams. As a result, some ideas put forth by women are not taken as seriously or given the same level of consideration. Women who have been particularly successful here are those who take on more male traits. It is subtle, but a male culture prevails here. Even though they want women to feel valued, they do not think broadly enough for the next generation of women.
There are hidden gender issues and inequity. Most of the men have stay-at-home wives so they can go off to every conference or go out for drinks at the end of the day. There are some implicit requirements that are harder for women to fulfill.
However, interviewees did report differential treatment by male students.
I don’t think the experience of women is different from men; although I suspect that men have a certain authority in the classroom that I have had to establish. Students are more forgiving with males, more challenging with females.
Faculty to faculty I do not know of issues that occur based on identity. I do know that there is gender bias among students. Male presentations in the classroom are accepted whereas a woman will be challenged.
Students test you the first year, but my male colleagues get more attention and respect.
Because of the heavy emphasis on student evaluations in the tenure process, many women did feel disadvantaged by the expectations of students and, in some cases, colleagues for a particular style of pedagogy and classroom management.
There’s a certain privilege in the male teaching style—the old school Williams way of the great performative male teacher. I can see women worrying if their departments want them to fit the mold.
There ought to be something more than the PET program. I need a mentor who can coach me about teaching (differently than male style); we need a (safe) venue to talk about it.
There’s a failure to think about student assessments and rely too heavily on them. The level of thought and analysis is very limited about how women fit into what constitutes good teaching other than the big boy teaching model.
Women also expressed more concern about the effect on tenure and career when using parental leaves and stopping the tenure clock.
Most of the College is responsive to maternity leaves; male faculty take advantage of paternity leaves. Women have stopped the tenure clock; I see no negative perception.
We can stop the tenure clock, but you have to go to the dean—women are afraid to use it.
I’m not sure about the impact of a maternity leave.
A hiring committee will ask, “What was she doing for these couple of years?” when a woman has taken a couple of maternity leaves.
Not surprisingly, tenure is a huge concern for junior faculty. Several individuals mentioned that the process itself lacked the transparency they would prefer. While this is not specifically related to diversity, the transparency of the tenure process does have an impact on the ability of the College to recruit and retain diverse faculty.
The grounds for appeal are very circumscribed; the process is not transparent—it seems like it circles right back to the people making the decision in the first place. I am not sure the tenure review process went anywhere.
I don’t feel the department is always on my side—it’s more supporting the department.
Williams isn’t as transparent about tenure as other places.
My department didn’t tell me how much I have to publish to get tenure.
I’d like the dean to be more proactive about junior faculty evaluation—what are the measures? Why are these the measures? What are the implicit assumptions at play?
I don’t know how many papers I will need.
Women, in particular, were worried by the evaluation process for tenure and some felt they did not get the support they needed to manage the tenure process.
The constant evaluation is very unsettling. When they interview students we don’t see the questions or the responses. I noticed I was taking fewer risks—it detracts from intellectual diversity.
I feel quite supported; I have to focus on publishing a book.
There’s too much emphasis on student evaluations. All the evaluations are about teaching, but the tenure decision is based on publications.
STAFF AND FACULTY
Williams, as most institutions in higher education, has a “class” divide between staff and faculty. Faculty are perceived to receive more perks in the form of access to campus housing, leaves, flexible schedules, etc. For some, the fact that staff are not invited to Mountain Day is symbolic of this class difference. Administrative staff also described social situations in which they felt ignored by faculty or conversations terminated very quickly when it became known that they were not faculty.
While this separation is not unusual, it does create even more isolation for gay staff and staff of color. Social and support groups are formed less on the basis of core identity and more on employment status at the College.
I am a gay person—there is no support for gay adults. There is visible support for students. I don’t feel threatened. It’s OK to be out, but there’s not much support. There’s not much interaction between the staff and gay faculty. I wish for some kind of community.
Gay life for faculty and staff is a big disappointment here. When I came, I just didn’t find it. I waited through the first year to see if there would be opportunities to get together.
I wish there were a more concerted effort to look at GLBT staff and faculty and to create a deliberate sense of community.
PERCEPTIONS OF STUDENT EXPERIENCE
Those who discussed students’ experiences are passionate and concerned about the well-being of students at Williams. Seeing students and teaching as the core of the institution, faculty described how diversity efforts need ultimately to benefit and strengthen the quality of the student experience—academically and socially.
Virtually everyone noted the significant change in the student body over the past fifteen years. While there has been a continued increase of women students, there has also been a significant increase in the number of international students.
We are accepting lots of international students. This is a great thing. These students seem to be doing fairly well. They speak lots of different languages.
Recruiting international students is valuable. It has a direct effect on the cultural diversity at Williams. We have blind admissions that have a great effect on the student population. Many have interest in the sciences.
Despite the diversification of the student population, some faculty and staff were surprised upon arriving at Williams by the homogeneity of the student body. Faculty who have few non-white students enrolled in the their classes noted this in particular.
I taught at a college within a large city before coming to Williams. It was a bit of a shock to arrive here and see so little diversity. In some classes, the lack of diversity makes it difficult to work the course content. The life experiences of students can be so limited.
In addition, there are concerns about how Williams considers international students in relation to U.S. born minorities, i.e. African Americans and Latinos. Several referred to international and U.S. minority students as being “clumped together.”
When the College thinks about diversity, they think about international students. There is an assumption that internationals and U.S. born minorities are the same, and they get lumped together. They are not the same.
International students add a lot to the College. Their issues are different than U.S. born minorities. These are different populations, and the College assumes that these various groups will assimilate and integrate. We do not acknowledge the differences.
Internationals and U.S. minorities have different needs. We can’t clump them together. Internationals grapple with social issues. U.S. minorities grapple with academic issues. Latino and African-American students can struggle in basic science due to lack of math skills developed in high school. As a result, it is hard to teach a wide range of students with varied ability.
Blacks are not used to being clumped with other blacks or Latinos with Latinos. For instance, within the Black Student Union, there are blacks from the Caribbean and blacks from New York City, and there can be friction between these groups.
Some described how this “clumping” has at times created tension among student identity groups and challenges for faculty. There seems to be more focus on assimilating all students into Williams and less focus on acknowledging and embracing differences among students.
There is significant concern that Williams’ strategies for academically supporting a more diverse student body have not kept pace with the success in admissions. Interviewees described diversifying the student body through admissions without having thought through what is needed to support the academic success of diverse students.
Williams is proud to have a solid percentage of minority students, yet their support is not a priority. These kids get taken care of by other kids. There is a lack of mentors.
We focus on students of color during their first days at Williams, but beyond that we offer little support or mentoring during the four years here—if they stay.
We need to have more academic support for those students who are not as well prepared for Williams—those students who may come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The biggest issue here is the lack of support for students. If you are faculty, you’ve got it pretty good. There is lots of support.
Student of color get virtually no support. They are accepted to Williams based on their promise, yet they are expected to be up and running with the best students within the first month.
For students coming from an urban setting, it’s a big transition coming to such a homogenous white place.
Many faculty members described the challenge of supporting students of color who are struggling. Some white faculty described their personal frustration, while faculty and staff of color discussed the burden of being “one of few” to provide support to these students.
In the sciences, the kids who are at the bottom of the list are typically African-American and Latino students. It is disturbing. I struggle with how to deal with this. The challenge with the summer program for the sciences is the weaker students end up working primarily with other weaker students.
There is a disproportionate number of male students of color who end up in academic trouble. There is little forthright discussion about it, and there is little response. These students get pushed to faculty and administrators of color.
Many more international students, however, I do not have a lot of U.S. minorities in my classes. It is often the students of color that are the last ones leaving the science lab. It is uncomfortable; I’m not sure how to deal with this.
Kids from disadvantaged backgrounds always seem to trail behind throughout their four years here.
While faculty applaud the efforts of individual faculty, they described the need to invest more resources in academic support. It also appears that the level of the understanding of and commitment to providing such support varies by department.
Wendy Raymond in the Biology Department has been working with others to bring more underrepresented minorities into this discipline.
Wendy Raymond has a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant and a grant from the Spencer Foundation to develop strategies for intervening early with students in mathematics. How can the College build on these structures to assist?
If kids are struggling, they are not sure where to go or who can be trusted. A lot of them need counseling.
Many described the success of the current summer program in the sciences. Faculty believe that, under Chip Lovett’s leadership, students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been able to make the transition to Williams more effectively. Building on this success should be a priority.
Transitioning students into Williams should be a priority. We do have an effective summer program for science prior to the start of school. It creates a support system up-front. We have to find ways to build on this not just academically but socially.
We should expand the Science and Math Summer Program and find ways to involve more faculty.
Faculty also discussed their concerns about the broader range of students across socioeconomic classes. Many academic programs and student life activities are out of financial reach for many students. This further creates a sense of “ins” and “outs” within the student body.
There are lots of kids here who have no or little money and no access to resources. There are numerous ways in which students cannot participate given the lack of resources—trips, graduation events, supplies—these seemingly little things have a significant impact on students’ experiences. A lot of parents can’t afford to travel to Williams.
There are issues around student separation and integration. For instance, forty to fifty percent of students are on financial aid. Students with money don’t see the financial limitations that some students face.
Student Culture and Life
Several interviewees described how the underlying Williams culture remains intact despite change in the student body. There is a sense that many informal systems and practices reinforce the Williams legacy in ways that isolate some students.
The odd thing about Williams is that the student culture has not shifted with the changes that have already happened. There is still an underlying prep school ethos. For example, one of the events prior to graduation is like a Great Gatsby event. And, there is still Mountain Day in October where the entire school hikes up Mount Greylock. Students of color typically don’t go, and then whites end up talking about the fact that they didn’t go as if it was an affront.
The reality is that Williams has a WASP legacy, lots of money, and an incredibly loyal and invested alumni.
In addition, there is a perception that white students have a limited understanding of the range of cultures and backgrounds of international and U.S. minority students.
Whites have to put themselves in the shoes of minorities. They believe that giving minority kids access to Williams is enough. It’s not—they need on-going support.
There are white students here who do believe that minority students are here due to affirmative action. They think minority students have been given a special pass—not that legacy students or athletes have.
Williams needs to expose students to other cultures and parts of the world. There is a danger in being isolated in Williamstown.
Interviewees noted that Williams implicitly expects assimilation. Acknowledging, responding to, and celebrating differences in a proactive way seems counter-cultural. While the Multicultural Center does facilitate the celebration of differences, the beneficiaries are primarily non-white students. As a result, the mission and activities of the Multicultural Center do not seem to lie at the core of the institution or student life.
The population at Williams is not sophisticated or well-informed. Having worked at other colleges, I am surprised with the lack of diversity. At Williams there seems to be pressure to conform. Differences are not celebrated here.
The Multicultural Center has not been that effective over the years. It organizes and sponsors events and programs that are peripheral to the College like heritage weeks, talks. It is a support center for non-white students. We have not integrated multiculturalism into the soul of Williams College.
The Multicultural Center receives little support from the College. It is positioned as a place to entertain students of color.
There are also concerns about segregation among students. There appear to be no forums for engaging students, faculty, and staff in dialogue about the dynamics of difference on campus. It appears that misunderstandings of behaviors and actions taken by students of “other” groups become a source of tension among students.
The College does not really demonstrate that working on diversity is the right thing to do. They think that diversity should be assimilation of differences. For instance, there is a Latino organization on campus. They have very popular parties. The Student Council has recently told this group that they are not inclusive and not well advertised, yet no one targets the athletic teams for not inviting the campus to their parties. When black students get together for lunch, there is the impression that they are “segregating,” yet when the hockey team has lunch together it is not viewed in the same way.
Athletics here are important—it is in the culture and ethos. There are many faculty who are anti-sports. The athletic culture here is white. Most blacks believe that the best athletes should start and play. The ethos is around “the team.” The team gets rewarded; individual talent is less appreciated. As a result, blacks are not well-represented on teams.
There is also the fear that discussions and policies related to diversity are inadvertently creating separateness among students.
There may be a way in which the College’s policies are polarizing the campus—the Black Student Union, the GLBT Union, etc.
As on many college campuses, there is concern about drinking on campus during weekends. Given the isolated environment of Williamstown and the current student culture, interviewees suggested that the dorms become a focal point for socialization on the weekends. Several interviewees described an uncomfortable and, in some cases, an unsafe environment for students.
The dorms can be wild on the weekends with the amount of alcohol that is consumed. Women have to lock their doors on Saturday nights to avoid the craziness and potential threats.
The drinking life on campus is pretty intense. As a result, I believe that there are numerous sexual assaults that occur that are not reported. Not only do they occur, the perpetrator seems to win. There is definitely an underlying macho culture here.
Many interviewees described the need to be, “much more serious about the concept of student life without creating student life as a profession. We can do this if we develop a vision and take charge as opposed to coming up with piecemeal solutions.”
Many interviewees described how to address the challenges of developing curriculum and pedagogies that are of more interest to and better reflect the student body. In addition, several noted that the curriculum does not offer the range of exposure needed by students in today’s environment.
The student body and the curriculum reflect an isolationist position. The majority of students lack understanding of others beyond those like them. There is no language requirement. The increase in the number of international students is helping to change this.
For instance, it is amazing how little awareness there is about third world countries. There is a real complacency about America’s place in the world and its relationship to it.
Students want to see themselves reflected in the course content. African-American and Latino studies have been responsive to this need.
On the other hand, there is a concern that the College’s focus on diversity risks quality and standards. This concern includes the quality of both faculty and students. It was also noted that building academic programs in response to the shifts in student demographics is, in itself, segregating the student body.
We have a balkanization of the student body—men are not welcome in women’s studies, whites are not welcome in black studies, and queer studies are primarily for homosexuals.
As can be seen from the range of conflicting perspectives quoted in the findings, Williams lacks a clear and explicit vision of what it aspires to achieve in the realm of diversity. We believe that it is time for the Board of Trustees and the leadership of the College to articulate such a vision. This vision needs to include how Williams defines diversity for itself and a clear picture of what it aspires to achieve in the future. Without this vision, there is a significant risk that the College will continue to tinker around the edges, foster unproductive conflict among faculty and staff, and never be truly clear about what all constituents—faculty, students, staff, alumni, applicants, parents, and peer institutions—can expect from Williams in the future.
We realize that there are numerous challenges to articulating this vision and “putting stakes in the ground.” Our sense is that the two core challenges will be Williams’ model of faculty governance and its department-centric culture. These two aspects of Williams have made it an exceptional and highly competitive liberal arts college with an incredible legacy and loyal alumni base. We are not suggesting that these aspects of the College culture be dismantled, yet we do believe they will be primary sources of resistance to a vision and mandate articulated by and for the entire institution.
To articulate this vision, the Board and College leaders need to determine what is important to its future, how much institutional will there is, and how far to go. As one faculty member said, “Williams does not want to be the leader, but it does want to be in the lead pack.” On the basis of the interviews, our sense is that there is enough will within the institution at this moment to be a leader and to establish a compelling vision. As another faculty member said, “It will be a tragedy if we do not take this moment in time to talk to each other and work through these issues. This may be a moment in time for top-down approach — ‘taking a leadership stand.’”
With an articulated vision, there is a range of activities in which faculty can engage to realize that vision. We have outlined a number of options that would be both desirable and feasible for the institution to pursue.
STRATEGY AND LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Within the context of a vision, to focus efforts and to overcome skepticism about commitment to diversity, the leadership of the College must set some specific goals. These can include targeting key administrative and faculty positions for diverse recruitment, creating forums in which open, authentic conversations about diversity can take place, and sponsoring yearly retreats for chairs that include a focus on establishing and enhancing inclusive and productive departmental climates.
To recruit diverse candidates successfully, it will be necessary to institute best practices in this arena. The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) has outlined best practices before, during, and after the search process. Department chairs, search committees, and hiring managers should be supported in implementing these practices through workshops, consultation, and financial resources.
The tenure process is critical in the development of young faculty, the preservation of institutional quality, and the maintenance of an inclusive and equitable climate. The tenure process should be reviewed and, if necessary, revamped to make it more transparent. This review would also allow an opportunity to consider the standards for tenure at Williams, how best to support young faculty, how to avoid disadvantaging particular groups, and the role that diversity play in tenure decisions. Such a discussion of the tenure process would also create an opportunity for further dialogue.
We realize that the tenure process reflects a set of academic standards deeply embedded in every top-flight institution of higher education in the United States. Two core questions are what constitutes excellent scholarship and what is considered quality teaching. These questions need to be discussed within the context of diversifying the faculty. As a result, we recommend that the College leverage its ability to provide financial support to departments to examine the tenure process in deep and expansive ways, i.e. through research, conferences, visitation to comparable institutions, etc.
TEACHING AND CURRICULUM
Based on the interviews, it appears that women faculty experience a different set of challenges in the classroom than their male counterparts. In addition, both male and female faculty described ways in which they are challenged by the dynamics of difference among students.
We recommend the College invest significantly in researching and developing programs that will assist faculty in responding more effectively to the needs and dynamics of a more diverse student body. Several faculty indicated that students may not choose certain classes or majors based on perceived lack of skill in responding to and integrating diversity issues.
This investment should extend beyond the classroom to strategies for academic support. For instance, it is clear that there are white faculty members who are committed to students of color yet struggle to find effective strategies to engage and support these students.