To the Williams Community,
In this case, what’s coming around again is the wonderful cycle of the academic year. Welcome to those of you who are joining our campus for the first time, and welcome back to all the rest of you.
This semester, even more than usual, will be one full of events designed to increase our engagement with the issues of the day.
They start with the tradition of Convocation on Sept. 8 at 11 a.m. in Chapin Hall, when, in addition to honoring students, we’ll confer Bicentennial Medals on five alumni and hear an address from one of them – Erin Burnett ’98, host of CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront. On Sept. 7 at 4 p.m. in the Adams Memorial Theatre the other four medalists will discuss the paths that led them from Williams to their distinguished achievements. Background on all of this year’s recipients is available here.
A series of events focused on this fall’s election begins on Sept. 24 when Michael Beschloss ’77 speaks on presidential leadership and ends on Nov. 12 with reflections on the election by Melissa Harris-Perry. Information on the whole series can be viewed here.
On Oct. 19-20 we’ll take the historic step of rededicating our Multicultural Center as The Davis Center, in honor of two of the most distinguished scholars and activists the college has ever produced: Allison B. Davis ’24 and John A. Davis Sr. ’33. While continuing to honor its original mission to serve the unique social and cultural needs of underrepresented populations at Williams, the center is evolving in exciting ways to engage all of us with the challenges of an increasingly interdependent and complex global community. The moment will be celebrated with a series of events, listed here, concluding with a keynote address by renowned educator Johnnetta Cole.
To facilitate direct engagement, the college has entered an experimental partnership with TurboVote, a non-partisan, web-based effort to make it easy for students to register and to vote no matter how far they are from home. For those who opt in, the service will provide handy self-mailers to request registration material and absentee ballots, along with texted reminders of deadlines. Any Williams student eligible to vote in the U.S. can enroll for this service here.
Another important point of engagement this fall is the Supreme Court’s hearing of the case Fisher v. University of Texas, which focuses on the role of race in selective college admissions. As Williams did when these questions were last before the court in 2003, the college has joined with similar institutions in filing a friend of the court brief, which explains why the use of race as one of many factors in a holistic assessment of applicants is important to our mission. You can read the brief here. Oral arguments are scheduled for Oct. 10, with a ruling expected long before the court’s year ends in June. Much is at stake in this ruling for Williams, for higher education, and (I would argue) for the country. We’ll be following matters closely.
I look forward to every academic year, and certainly to this one, with so much going on. May it be for you a year of engagement, growth, challenge, deep relationships, and good fun – perhaps sequentially, but perhaps on some marvelous occasions all at once.