To the Williams community,
We’re coming into the last weeks of what has been a challenging year on campus. I described my view of the current state of Williams in my April 22 message, and I know many of you have your own perspectives. As we move toward summer break I’m writing one more time with thoughts about how we’ll devote next year to building a healthier campus culture.
Such an effort has many facets, but two of the most important are our work on inclusion and on ways of respectfully engaging across difference.
In regards to the former, Williams has experienced protests and actions this year organized by people who want the rest of this community to know that they feel excluded or unwelcome at Williams. Many of the issues involved were compiled by a group calling itself CARE Now. If you want information about what the college is already doing and plans to do to make Williams more inclusive, please view the summary that I shared with that group today [NB: the original version of the email linked to this page]. My discussions with some of the students involved taught me that we need to do more to make people aware of what the college is working on, and we agreed that a fully developed response would take longer than the few days they initially proposed. I reassured them that I share their emphasis on making our campus a place that everyone can claim as equally their own.
As to the issue of engagement across difference, this has also been a year in which people tried to make their views known to each other on a range of complex issues, from free speech to racism to geopolitics. Such debates are always happening at schools like Williams, and should happen: it’s one of the hallmarks of the liberal arts that we’re constantly exploring and testing new ideas and relating them to what we see in the world. But changes in our political environment are making it feel like the stakes for such debates are now especially high. It’s clear that we need to do more to teach and uphold principles for such engagements, so that people can debate issues vigorously without devolving into personal attacks.
I believe deeply in the importance of process and consensus-building in a campus community. To reach our shared goals, we must exchange ideas, agree and disagree, and come to a common understanding of how to move the institution forward, one step at a time. I’m committed to this effort and hope that the many members of our community will join me in articulating and living these principles.
With such principles in place for a robust, respectful and inclusive intellectual community, Williams will thrive. Without them, we’re unlikely to progress on any other work, no matter how important.
The order of topics in the following summary is inspired by concerns and ideas presented to President Mandel by Williams students in Spring 2019.
Williams history and indigenous peoples
Williams, like other schools around the nation, is reflecting deeply and often critically on its own history. This work relies on emerging research that exposes how institutions of higher learning, like many organizations founded in early stages of the history of the United States, were implicated in processes of colonialism, expropriation and slavery. Georgetown University’s recent work confronting its involvement in the practices and economy of slavery is one of the best-known examples of this approach. Williams is proceeding along its own journey, as exemplified by recent work on the role of Williams students, faculty and alumni in the colonization of Hawai’i—a project centered at the Williams College Museum of Art but involving people from many disciplines and areas of campus, as well as alumni.
In regards to the history of Williams’ interactions with indigenous peoples in what is now western Massachusetts, the Committee on Community and Diversity (CDC) is working on a territory acknowledgement formally recognizing that the land now occupied by the college was previously inhabited by Native Americans. The college is committed to considering its options with regard to the scope of such an acknowledgment.
Here is some of the other relevant work happening at Williams that works to expose or address our institutional history:
- The Library’s Special Collections created new undergraduate research fellowships that will begin this summer. The call for applications encouraged proposals relating to Williams history, especially around issues of inclusion, diversity, and institutional accountability, which could include studies of Williams’s historical ties to slavery and indigenous peoples. One of the inaugural fellows will look at the historical impact of fraternities on marginalized students at Williams. The college will evaluate the fellows program and, if it’s successful, may continue it indefinitely.
- The college has also committed to develop and support programming focused on Williams’s history and relationship with slavery and indigenous people, and in the 2019-2020 academic year has plans to engage a scholar whose work focuses on slavery and the academy, as well as indigenous studies.
- The college continues seeking meaningful ways to sustain engagement with Native Studies, and in fall 2019 will welcome a second tenure-line faculty member with expertise in the field. Assistant Professor of History Christine Delucia will join Assistant Professor of American Studies Eli Nelson, who was recruited last year. Professor DeLucia has proposed a workshop at Williams called “Centering Indigenous Knowledges, Strengthening Intellectual and Collaborative Networks, and Reckoning with Institutional Histories,” which is already well into the planning stages.
- In the fall of 2018, the Library invited applications for a new student position with the title of Institutional History Curatorial Assistant. The response was less robust than hoped, and Library staff are now reworking the position description for Fall 2019 to see if we can make it speak more directly to student interests in institutional history and accountability. Meanwhile, staff involved with this effort are also consulting with colleagues at Dartmouth, whose Historical Accountability Program and related Research Fellowship have garnered considerable national attention.
- Professor Dorothy Wang and Senior WCMA Curator Kevin Murphy are concluding the Spring 2019 version of a course called “Uncovering Williams,” which draws on works from the WCMA collection to expose aspects of Williams’ history and reassess the college’s relationship to our region and environment and the people of this area.
- Our Strategic Planning working group on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity is finalizing a charge, soon to be published, that asks the community to consider, among other questions, “How can we best study and highlight the college’s history, particularly regarding evolving understandings of its mission and who it serves?”
Student safety and health
The college is working on a number of initiatives to increase support and safety for minoritized students and all students on campus. Following is a summary of what Williams has recently done or is doing, accompanied by reflections on further work we intend to pursue:
The Dean’s office recently conducted an external review of our Center for Academic Resources, including the Office of Accessible Education. The Director of Accessible Education spoke with the reviewers about his work and programming, and the review panel’s recommendations, including their opinions on staffing needs, are due by the end of this month. Last year the college significantly increased the Accessible Education budget to help address growing demand, and we are prepared to consider further budget requests, including growth in staffing, that are likely to emerge from the external review. This includes an increase in demand for services that we foresee as we increase support and staffing at IWS, described in the next paragraph, which will add to the volume of referrals for accommodations and support.
Williams also has a number of programs designed to support students’ medical and mental health needs. We have significantly expanded the counseling staff at the Integrative Wellbeing Services, including staff therapists, a psychiatrist, fellows, trainees, and contract providers. During the academic year our ratio of students to practitioners is better than 150:1, which compares favorably to the national average of 900:1 for schools of our size, as measured in 2016. In the coming year, fifty percent of our staff therapists will be people of color. Eighty percent of our recent clinical hires are people of color, as compared to a thirty-eight percent average nationally among recent hires. In addition, two of our incoming class of fellows are women of color.
In terms of healthcare coverage, the college offers health insurance to all enrolled students who qualify for financial aid, at a coverage level exceeding that required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Most aided students receive this insurance as part of their packages, although a relative few choose to remain on family policies. In the coming year, the college will work with our insurance underwriter to add functionality that can help us ensure coverage from home will cover local medical needs. If it falls short, Williams will help close the gaps.
In addition, Williams offers a “Critical Need Funding” program that is available to low-income and other students for emergency needs, including out-of-pocket healthcare expenses and co-pays. Requests are channeled to the Dean’s Office and the Office of Financial Aid so that students will not have to figure out which office to go to for help. The two offices are launching an online request portal in fall 2019, which we will advertise widely, to raise student awareness of the critical funding program.
Sometimes, students develop health (including mental health) issues that prompt consideration of a medical leave. The college has tried to make the leave request process simple for people who are by definition experiencing challenges: the student works with a dean to compile the necessary medical documentation. The transfer of that information is typically automatic if the student is already working with the college health center or another provider. If they do not have a relationship with a local professional, we typically require just a single session with a college provider to arrange the documentation. The Director of Accessible Education is available to facilitate this information transfer for students with disabilities. The leave request process otherwise requires virtually no paperwork. In order for a student to return from medical leave, Williams requires a personal statement and a provider statement, which are typical requirements across higher education.
Staff and faculty leaves follow their own process, which we also want to make as simple as possible. Employee requests are approved in accordance with the Family Medical Leave Act, and depending on circumstances a staff member on leave will have their pay continued according to terms set out in the college’s Short-term Disability Policy or Parental Leave Policy. The processes for returning from various kinds of leaves are documented in the links provided above.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is currently implementing a new mandated paid leave program, which allows employers to either join or match the state’s program: the college has already committed to matching the program’s expanded leave benefits and exceeding its compensation standard.
Another area of shared concern is the accessibility of our campus structures and spaces. College buildings have consistently been built or renovated in compliance with all building codes, including the ADA and the regulations of the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board, and the college fully complies with all accessibility codes. We acknowledge the importance of this commitment while recognizing that compliance is a minimum state. Williams is a 200-year-old campus built on hilly terrain, and many of our buildings predate attention to accessibility. As we renovate buildings, we make them accessible. To further address this concern, the college developed and committed to an accessible housing plan for our residence halls in conjunction with the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board. At the time of signing, we were only the second college in the Commonwealth to enter such an agreement. We are eager to engage with constituencies on campus who want to share experiences or otherwise help move accessibility forward at Williams.
The college is now working with a landscape architect to investigate ways to improve campus walkways and paths, which will include consideration of accessibility criteria. In the coming year, the Vice President for Finance and Administration will share opportunities for students, faculty and staff to meet with the architects and share their views, which will help us make sure campus spaces can be accessed and enjoyed by everyone. One important consideration in this process will be making sure diverse voices are heard from about their access to and experience of Williams spaces. This is especially important for students, but really for all of us. The college will be attentive to this need, and we invite everyone to please contribute when opportunities are announced in the 2019–20 academic year.
Moving beyond spaces, we also want our events to be accessible. This may include anything from encouraging use of accessible and inclusive spaces to discouraging use of strobe lights at parties. The Office of Student Life invites contact from students interested in helping to identify areas of concern, so that we can address them in the campus space reservation process and our artist contracts.
Students have also asked us to create standardized language to be included in all syllabi outlining the college policy on disabilities. Currently, the Dean’s office contacts all faculty at the end of each summer and recommends syllabus language on a variety of topics, including accessibility. Such language is not mandated, but we will put that request forward to faculty governance for consideration, since authority over syllabus guidelines rests with them.
Another suggestion was for Williams to join other institutions, such as the Five College Consortium, in working with the Stonewall Center to provide access to PrEP and other sexual health needs through the College’s health insurance plan. Although this idea is outside the scope of the college insurance plan for academic year 2019–20, Campus Life and Health Services will investigate the option for future years. Such an analysis will have to consider likely impact on cost, so as not to place our insurance plan out of reach for students who need it.
Students have also voiced concern that the College is not doing enough to support students with disabilities, citing (1) academic policies that are unnecessarily rigid, and (2) excessive bureaucracy for leave requests. To reduce barriers we have begun streamlining the process of applying for a reduced course load (RCL). Students can request a RCL in the Office of Accessible Education, which allows them to take three classes per semester instead of four (and still retain the ability to withdraw from one of those courses). An important next step involves examining our academic policies to determine whether there are embedded components that have a disproportionate and adverse effect on students with disabilities. In fall 2019, the Dean of the College will lead conversations with the Committee on Educational Affairs and the Committee on Academic Standing in order to initiate a review of current academic policies (i.e., not allowing students to use an extra graded course to make up a deficiency incurred later; setting strict limits on when students must make up course deficiencies) to determine whether they are effective and equitable. We encourage student input on these and other issues related to accessibility as well as on how we can make the process for requesting a medical leave easier and more positive. Students are welcome to contact any dean or member of CEA or CAS.
Williams supports the hiring of faculty with diverse abilities, and tries to keep paperwork to a minimum in this sphere, as well. The Offices of the Dean of Faculty and of Institutional Diversity and Equity work with faculty who need accommodations and even insurance advocacy. Incoming faculty members with disabilities are also prioritized in the faculty/staff housing lottery.
Williams has a documented history of commitment to diversity, but in recent years has acknowledged (and sometimes made aware) that our responsibility must go beyond numerical diversity to be inclusive of a diverse student body, faculty and staff, and an increasingly diverse alumni community, as well.
The Davis Center is the heart of OIDE’s engagement with students, joining with critical work done by so many staff and faculty across campus. The Center, whose mission is to “advance broad campus engagement with complex issues of identity, history, and cultures as they affect intellectual, creative, and social life,” and to “initiate and support dialogue about and action toward access, equity, and inclusion at Williams and elsewhere,” recently celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. The scope and complexity of its work continues to expand as a function of increasing campus diversity and intensifying attention—both grassroots and institutional—to issues of inclusion along many dimensions of identity, and often involving constituencies beyond the student body. The Center’s own ambitions are expanding and evolving, as are demands on its staff and services. The college has been steadily increasing its commitment of resources to this work, and we expect to continue doing so.
The Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity (OIDE), which manages the Davis Center, has requested and received increased funding for the Davis Center every year in order to meet individual student needs and support the expansion of student affinity groups, including groups sponsored by the Minority Coalition (MinCo) as well as non-MinCo groups. This year, OIDE is making an additional $34,000 and $15,000 available in the new fiscal year to support additional student affinity groups and heritage-month programming, respectively, which were important requests from students. In regards to OIDE’s own budget, some areas of funding are appropriately scaled for the number of minoritized individuals on campus, but not all. In recognition of this fact, the college authorized a substantial (in both percentage and absolute terms) increase in OIDE’s budget for the current fiscal year.
In regards to work with faculty, Vice President for OIDE Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes ’99 published an editorial in the February 13, 2019, issue of the Williams Record that details the college and OIDE’s initiatives to recruit and support a diverse faculty. The position of Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Equity, currently held by Associate Professor of Political Science Ngoni Munemo, is reserved for a member of the faculty and has historically been an important resource for faculty members with concerns or interests related to inclusion and equity. (The Associate Dean is always in a non-evaluative role relative to faculty members with whom they work.) The college also recently added a second Davis Center Fellow and second OIDE Faculty Fellow, recognizing the important role Fellows play in mentoring, supporting Bolin Fellows and postdoctoral fellows, and offering faculty programming on issues related to increasing inclusion and equity.
The work to serve a diverse community takes many forms. Staff, including some at the Davis Center, have shared with OIDE and the college that, while the volume of their work is generally manageable, the emotional weight of that work can be significant (this experience is common among people who do student-facing work, but the intensity of the burden increases when working with students of minoritized and diverse identities, who have fewer alternative sources of mentorship and support). Turnover in Center staff is not uncommon: In the thirty-year history of the Davis Center/Multicultural Center, only seven people have served terms of more than five years, and four of these seven were non-exempt or hourly staff. None of the three exempt or salaried staff members stayed more than seven years. While this is a fact, we also recognize the risk of normalizing departures in a student-centered program, where transitions can be disruptive for students and also colleagues. At the same time, Williams is an important professional launch-pad for experts in the diversity, equity, and inclusion realm, and we want to honor that as a unique contribution to a national pipeline of talent, comparable to the Bolin Fellows’ stature in academia. Many of the staff who have left the Center in recent years have done so to pursue exciting professional opportunities or advanced degrees, and have been mentored and supported in that process by OIDE and other Williams colleagues. While exit interviews and other sources of information do not point to dissatisfaction as a widespread reason for departure, we continue to look for ways to acknowledge what is not stated.
At the same time, we highly value continuity and have successfully engaged in efforts to retain Davis Center and other OIDE staff. The Center is staffed by a total of four full-time employees, of whom two are currently on leave. In the meantime, the Center is staffed by an Acting Director, an Assistant Director, a newly-hired assistant director who begins in June, and a temporary administrative assistant funded by OIDE for office support. Other members of the OIDE staff are deeply engaged in Davis Center work, as well.
Moving to anti-discrimination efforts, the college recently revised and rolled out a robust non-discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct policy and accompanying grievance procedures. The policy, developed by OIDE and the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee and implemented in July 2018, supports all members of the community, including but not limited to faculty. CARE Now has asked that the “statute of limitations” on grievances be waived, but there is no such time bar: Individuals are free to bring a concern or grievance at any time.
Perhaps one of the most prominent areas of focus for campus activism this year has been allegations of bias among Campus Safety and Security (CSS) officers, especially in relation to their interactions with minoritized students. The strong desire to better understand and address these issues is shared by CSS, students, and the administration. CSS officers completed a multi-hour bias workshop with OIDE in December 2017. OIDE and the Office of Campus Life, which oversees CSS, are now conducting a policy and practice review of CSS in partnership with the Dean of Faculty, Dean of the College, and the Office of Student Life. We also plan to commission an outside agency to perform a complete external review of CSS’s structure, regulatory responsibilities and protocols in the coming academic year. In order to ensure a fresh perspective, we plan that the review will be conducted by a national organization not linked directly with college security or law enforcement. It will look at practices and protocols, provide new training resources and advance the work of the department in conjunction with students, staff, and faculty. That process should also examine the suggestion of a possible oversight/review committee, a common accountability measure in community policing but much less common in academia. This idea will be evaluated alongside other options for ensuring fair and equitable practices.
The college is committed to addressing the concerns raised while also recognizing that in many instances CSS has adequately carried out its duties in the provision of support to minoritized and other students. While concerns are being raised and considered, many other people on campus attest to the value of CSS’s work and the dedication of its officers and staff. We have noted a growing recognition that some of the sources of tension and conflict are structural—a byproduct of the college’s heavy reliance on CSS to do work that on a different campus might be handled by professional residence life staff and others. One small, but illustrative example is the expectation that CSS officers maintain a presence at campus parties and other student events. This could be avoided by bringing back the practice of hiring student hosts. The Office of Student Life is open to looking at re-incorporating students in these roles, while keeping in mind that the practice was eliminated because of persistent lack of student interest.
Another important move, specific to the 2019–20 strategic planning process and its “Learning beyond the Classroom” working group, will be to examine our residential life system as a whole. Williams is unlike many peer schools in that we have no professional staff resident in our dormitories. At many schools, RAs and other professionals are present in the dorms to help with conflict resolution, inclusion work, and other ways of helping people learn to live together. Absent such staff at Williams, uniformed CSS officers are often called as a first resort in moments of conflict, especially after hours. CSS and the college recognize that this often conveys the impression of a police presence or surveillance. This is not to say that Williams should or will place professional staff in dorms, but simply that the strategic planning process needs to look at how best to support our residential system and serve students’ education and personal development.
Another area of the residential life discussion that has attracted widespread attention is the idea of affinity housing. College leaders have been in constructive conversations with students leading this cause. In discussion with them, we have stressed the importance of embedding our conversations in the wider discussion around residential life that will be a central feature of the Strategic Planning process. Doing so will also enable us to collect relevant data from other schools to inform our thinking. In this spirit, the working group will consider the idea of a pilot along with other possibilities. We do want to pause and recognize that, at the time of writing, some students involved in the affinity housing and other efforts are being subjected to unduly harsh media and social media attention that misrepresents affinity housing as “segregation.”
In reality, people on campuses across America already opt to live together based on various shared interests and identities: French language students, film studies, Christian fellowship students, vegetarians, hockey players, etc. The question is not whether such an idea is valid in principle, but how to reconcile in practice the impulse toward free association with Williams’ commitment to a diverse living community. Any pilot that is considered should take these questions into account, as well as looking at the successes and struggles of comparable efforts elsewhere. But we believe such questions should not be a bar to exploring the idea in the course of strategic planning.
In regards to campus spaces, students have also asked about Rice House, which is home to several student affinity groups. President Mandel has stated the college’s commitment to preserving and renovating Rice House as part of the larger renovation of the Davis Center, and to maximizing space in the building. The Davis Center Building Committee has gathered campus input via three scheduled events: a lunch for interested students, faculty, and staff on Friday, April 19 in the Faculty House lounge; a community conversation on Monday, April 22, in Baxter Hall; and a meeting with MinCo groups on Sunday, April 28. The Committee also created a website with a link to a survey that anyone can use to submit comments for the committee’s work, and cards and flyers are being disseminated to promote these opportunities.
Transparency, accountability, and advocacy for incidents of sexual harassment and assault
Williams is committed to the safety of our students, and makes our values about consent and sexual misconduct clear in our Code of Conduct. We provide a wide range of preventive education programs to reduce the likelihood of harm, and strive to provide robust and comprehensive support to those who have been harmed. When a harmed student seeks accountability, we work to provide an adjudication process that is as trauma-informed, equitable, and as streamlined as possible. The Title IX Coordinator and the Dean of the College, who is the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for students, work together to meet these goals. The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response also supports those in the community who have reported being sexually assaulted or harmed and provides education throughout the community to encourage respectful and consensual engagements.
It is clear, however, that not all students feel well-served by our current model. We have heard that some students who have been harmed feel that (1) they are not provided with enough support and accommodation; (2) no-contact orders feel overly restrictive; (3) violations of no-contact orders are in their view not being met with appropriate disciplinary consequences; (4) there are not appropriate sanctions for perpetrators, or sufficient restrictions on the campus roles open to students who have previously been found responsible for sexual misconduct; and (5) the structure of the adjudication process, currently handled in part by the Office of the Dean of the College, could create perceived conflicts of interest or a barrier to seeking help that leaves survivors feeling unsupported.
We accept these concerns and recognize the need to address them. The last time our sexual misconduct program was reviewed in a comprehensive and systematic manner was in 2012. We are open to considering the idea of a new review. Such a review would best happen after the Department of Education reaches a decision on its proposed rules changes, which are still pending and may have an effect on college processes. We understand the broad scope of current concerns, and will meanwhile begin a review of our policy and procedures, organizational structure and aligned goals, and staffing in the coming year. The Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity and the Dean of the College’s office will coordinate the review, and we are committed to including students in the process.
We will also address a number of issues in the meantime:
- Publicizing new educational material about no-contact orders, which we hope will reduce violations and clarify what NCOs can and cannot accomplish. (Note: these materials were crafted with the help of students who provided valuable input at a roundtable discussion about NCOs in spring 2019.)
- Developing stronger links between the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and other departments and offices on campus, including Integrative Wellbeing Services (IWS), Student Life, and the Davis Center.
- Identifying a confidential resource within the Davis Center.
- Working with the Elizabeth Freeman Center to determine whether it would be feasible to expand our memorandum of understanding to include dedicated funding to allow EFC clinicians to be available to students on campus for a limited number of hours per week. We currently provide students with transportation to the North Adams and Pittsfield offices, which gives them access to confidential resources, including bilingual (Spanish-English) and LGBTQ+ advocates.
- Examining how the college can offer more formalized support to faculty and staff with marginalized identities, who receive a disproportionate share of student disclosures of trauma.
- Offering additional trauma-specific training to our professional and clinical staff in IWS. In 2016, the Director of Sexual Assault Response and Prevention brought in outside experts to provide trauma-informed survivor support training for all IWS therapists. We will explore with IWS opportunities to repeat this offering as a full-day intensive training on a regular basis.
- Paying close attention to IWS staff diversity. In the fall of 2019, fifty percent of the college’s full-time therapists will be people of color and at least two of the new fellows in Integrative Wellbeing Services will be as well. IWS staff also claim a variety of gender identities and sexual orientations. We will remain attentive to the scale and diversity of demand, and, as new positions come online or existing ones become open, will strive to make sure that people can work with an IWS professional who shares their identity, or with whom they otherwise feel comfortable seeking treatment.
- Working with student groups to help them highlight values and expectations for each other up front (before new students join), and to support healthy discussions about accountability before critical incidents of harm occur.
- Work with Facilities, OSL, and the Davis Center to explore potential spaces for a swipe-accessible room available to survivors needing time alone in a secure space, with the goal of having a plan in place by late calendar year 2019.
Staff and faculty support and resources
Throughout the year, members of the campus community have asked about pay for staff, and especially a living wage for hourly employees. The Massachusetts living wage for a single adult is currently $13.96, and Berkshire County’s living wage for a family with two working adults and two children is $16.61. The college’s current lowest hourly rate in regular and term positions is $15/hour, and very few employees receive less than $16. We will assess pay for those positions this year. Indeed, pay rates for all staff are reviewed and adjusted annually. The annual increase for the past six years has been 2.5 percent. This is ahead of inflation, which has ranged during the same period from 0.7 to 2.1 percent.
Beyond pay scales, the college has multiple structures that provide employees with a voice on their own needs and campus governance. The Staff Advisory Council, which includes representatives from exempt and non-exempt staff, has been in operation for more than 20 years and advises Human Resources on college policy and practices. In 2019, the membership was expanded to 18 members, with “neighborhoods” created in order to balance campus representation. The Staff Committee is a separate group that “seeks to increase the visibility of staff on campus and to advance their role in the life of the college,” acting as a voice to senior administration for staff ideas. At the same time, we have heard concerns that these groups and spaces are not fully representative of the communities they serve, which themselves are evolving in terms of diversity and other factors. This is an important area for future work, to make sure everyone on this campus has a voice.
Finally, the Diversity Action Research Team (DART) and its Staff Subcommittee are other important actors on staff and workplace issues, compiling and analyzing data (e.g., the biannual staff survey) to better understand emerging issues of diversity and inclusion, and recommending ways to foster a more inclusive campus (e.g., expanding the college’s tuition benefit for employees).
The college looks beyond pay to consider ways to recruit and support diverse staff and faculty. We again recommend Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes’ February 2019 op-ed in the Williams Record to anyone interested in a broad summary of our many efforts to recruit, retain and support a diverse faculty.
In addition, the Committee on Appointments and Promotions continues to look for opportunities for senior hires, including faculty of color. At junior levels, seventeen faculty members of color have received tenure since 2009–10, out of twenty who came up for tenure during that time. This compares favorably with the rate of overall tenure decisions during the same period.
OIDE and the Dean of Faculty also sponsor or help fund a number of professional development opportunities, including with the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity and the following:
- Hiring workshops, which include sessions on effective mentoring and department/program climate
- A speaker series on confronting white privilege (in the context of reviewing EDI), conducted in 2016–17
- Two all-faculty retreats on inclusive pedagogies and campus climate; these were paralleled by workshops on inclusive pedagogies and mentoring in STEM fields, specifically
- Programs by consultants retained to work with specific units on addressing problems in their workplace climate
- OIDE’s TIDE grants, which support programing that builds competencies and support grassroots efforts by faculty and staff of color
- A Sherman Fairchild Grant supported the Quantitative Skills Programs and Peer Support, which help build expertise and resources in inclusive pedagogies and academic support in STEM+ fields. The college now funds this position on an ongoing basis.
- College funding for grassroots faculty and staff groups by and for women of color, as well as funding for a men of color group that includes faculty, staff and students
- Institutional membership in the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD), which has extensive resources to support untenured (as well as tenured) faculty members—especially but not only for faculty of color.
- The Dean of Faculty also coordinates a mentoring program for new faculty members, and can support mentoring links between untenured faculty with senior faculty at other institutions.
- Williams is currently seeking additional opportunities for tenured faculty to increase their mentoring competencies for supporting junior faculty of color.
Housing is often cited as a further pinch-point for faculty and staff. One area we continue to probe is the range of housing options and rent levels, and whether they suit the demographics and interests of eligible participants. In order to increase the range of options, the college recently began piloting a cohousing option, in which residents live in a shared three-bedroom house with communal kitchen and facilities. This arrangement may, for example, appeal to some untenured faculty members who commute. If the pilot is successful, we will review a proposed expansion of the program with the Ad Hoc Real Estate Working Group, the Committee on Priority and Resources, the Faculty/Staff Benefits Committee, and the Faculty Compensation Committee.
The college also maintains a commuter housing policy, which can be helpful to faculty and staff who want to live in communities where they feel at home. This policy has recently been shifted from pilot to permanent status. The program provides commuters with three-year leases for a local home base during their days on campus. Based on input from current commuters and relevant committees, the college set aside six units for the 2019–20 academic year. In the future, we will select units in advance of the regular residential housing lottery process each April. The definition of a “commute” for these purposes is a drive of more than 30 minutes, equal to a reasonable commute in urban, suburban, and rural contexts.
Within the housing lottery, disabled participants are given first priority. The Ad Hoc Real Estate Working Group also plans to address the points system generally in upcoming deliberations, with advice from the Faculty Compensation Committee. It should be noted that staff eligibility for college housing is limited to three years, so long-serving staff are not disadvantaged in the point system.
One key challenge in the housing lottery is timing, particularly for off-cycle hires. A few years ago, the Faculty Compensation Committee reviewed the lottery process, balancing the goals of providing advance notice to faculty and staff against departments’ annual hiring schedules. The Committee’s recommendation was to shift the start of the lottery to early April for the subsequent academic term. The lottery process is now completed by late May and individuals can move into selected units as early as July 15. As a result, the college sometimes has difficulty providing housing options for people hired outside the traditional academic schedule, including eligible staff and off-cycle faculty. We address their needs on a first-come, first-served basis by offering vacant units within the portfolio, with immediate move-in. People who participate on this basis are then able to join the next available full lottery, if they wish to change housing once more choices become available.
In terms of other benefits, the Dean of Faculty has also engaged the Faculty Compensation Committee to identify stressors on the lives of diverse faculty, and to think creatively about how our benefits offerings can address a wider range of lived experiences. Individual faculty members are urged to bring any concerns and suggestions in this vein directly to the FCC.
The college is meanwhile looking at a broader range of offerings that make it easier for people to choose employment at Williams in ways that fit with their lifestyles. For example, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty has begun exploring a program that could provide weekend transportation to the Rensselaer Amtrak station and Albany International Airport.
CARE Now also raised questions about grievance and tenure processes. When general grievances pertaining to complaints of unfair employment practices or those pertaining to complaints of discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct arise, the college enacts processes outlined in the Staff Handbook and Faculty Handbooks, respectively. OIDE hears more than 100 concerns each year from staff, faculty, and students, which it works to address through conflict resolution. The Affirmative Action Advisory Committee has also created a unified grievance policy to support faculty, staff, and, when applicable, students. The new policy went into effect in July 2018.
In terms of tenure, another area where students have expressed interest, the working group for faculty and staff development has the authority to recommend examination of our tenure appeal processes. The college already offers faculty who have received a negative tenure decision the chance to speak with a review committee once their case enters the appeals process, which follows after the “request for reconsideration” step in our sequence. Since 2016, candidates for tenure have also had the opportunity to give comments directly to the Committee on Appointments and Promotions prior to a tenure decision, based on their reading of the tenure staffing report submitted to the CAP. In this pre-tenure decision context, the CAP may invite the tenure candidate to meet with them in person.
The curriculum and academic core
The curriculum is a major aspect of inclusion work at Williams, just as thinking about inclusion is in turn shaping our academic offerings. This document will conclude by responding to a variety of questions students have posted about those offerings. The faculty and the college as a whole are closely attentive to campus interest in both established and emerging disciplines, and Williams is continually reviewing and updating our course list. Recent examples range from increased attention to Computer Science, Economics, and Math/Stats, to this year’s CPC working group recommendation that the college take steps toward establishing a program in Asian American Studies.
All decisions about tenure-line faculty staffing are driven by faculty requests, which are reviewed by the Curricular Planning Committee (CPC) and the CAP, with CAP making final decisions after consultation with the CPC and the Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity. Units may always request open-rank searches, but even searches that are advertising for assistant professors may surface senior candidates.
In response to student interest in Ethnic Studies specifically, following is a summary of recent investment in faculty lines, in the related fields of AFR, AMST, ARAB, LATS, and WGSS. Student interest in a curricular area, demonstrated through strong enrollments, is an important factor in faculty’s efforts to make the case for increasing offerings in that area. As the following data show, the college has also been very willing to appoint into interdisciplinary programs and departments.
- AFR: The Africana Studies faculty is currently at 5.5 FTE (with Shanti Singham at .5 FTE to retire June 2019). Among continuing AFR faculty, Neil Roberts, James Manigault-Bryant, Rhon Manigault-Bryant, and Rashida Braggs are all tenured. Most of the faculty in Africana Studies were approved as expansion lines beginning in 2005–06. A further FTE was approved in 2014-15, resulting in the hire of VaNatta Ford (reappointed; currently on AP leave). In addition, AFR annually appoints a senior distinguished visiting faculty member as the Sterling Brown Professor, and regularly hosts Bolin Fellows. Prisca Gayles is the current Bolin Fellow. A further request for three positions in Africana Studies is now under review and a decision will be announced by May 10, 2019.
- AMST: American Studies is currently home to Dorothy Wang, Eli Nelson, Merida Rua (.5), and Cass Cleghorn (.45). AMST, too, has regularly hosted Bolin Fellows, most recently Tyler Rogers.
- ARAB: Arabic is the home department for Lama Nassif, Amal Eqeiq, and Brahim El Guabli. All three of the FTE needed to create this department were expansion hires for the college, with the most recent added in 2018–19.
- LATS: Latina/o Studies faculty currently include Maria Elena Cepeda, Jackie Hidalgo (.5), and Merida Rua (.5), with Carmen Whalen and Ondine Chavoya offering .5 curricular contributions. The program FTE was created as expansion FTE beginning in 2004–5. A further expansion FTE was approved in 2017–18, and the process is underway to fill it through an opportunity appointment in progress. LATS has also been hosting artist-in-residence Nelly Rosario and will host a senior distinguished visitor, Professor Alberto Sandoval-Sanchez from Mount Holyoke College, in 2019–20. LATS, too, has regularly hosted Bolin Fellows, most recently Sebastien Perez.
- WGSS: Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies received an expansion FTE approved in 2010–11, resulting in a hire in 2011–12. Greg Mitchell, now tenured, joined the program in July 2012. Two further expansion FTE approved in 2016–17 resulted in the hires of Kai Green and Vivian Huang, who began in July 2017.
- A further request for two positions in Asian-American Studies is under review and a decision will be announced by May 10, 2019. Precedent exists for the hiring committee to include senior faculty across interdisciplinary programs and departments. The opportunity is also already available for interdisciplinary programs to submit hiring requests for joint-track faculty lines.
Other student requests (e.g., that ⅓ of voting power on search committees be held by students) would require faculty discussion, since the hiring process is under their governance.
Overall, opportunity appointments provide an excellent way to hire, and the CAP considers all such requests. Of the faculty who began at Williams in 2017–18, six were hired through OAs, four of them faculty of color.
The college is also in the process of raising funds to endow the Bolin Fellowship, and we would be excited to expand the program if funding is achieved. While students have asked about appointing a Bolin Fellow based in INTR, this is not a functioning academic unit and is unlikely to be revived in the foreseeable future.
As a closing observation, the Bolin Fellows program is one of several important ways to bring new academic strengths to Williams. We encourage students to speak to faculty members in relevant departments about areas of interest unexplored in the current curriculum, as a way to inform the continued growth of our offerings.