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Strong Response to Racism

momtoacemomtoace 11 replies6 threads New Member
edited December 2011 in Williams College
As the parent of a minority student who just applied ED to Williams, I am so impressed with their response to a racist incident over the week-end. Institutions cannot prevent bigots from doing their thing, but they can send clear messages when they do. I am so impressed that the administration at Williams brought everything to a halt today to deal with this matter.

This is the letter from the administration:

Important Message on Racist Hate Speech | Office of the President
edited December 2011
40 replies
Post edited by momtoace on
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Replies to: Strong Response to Racism

  • GTalumGTalum 3079 replies25 threads Senior Member
    I read that this morning and wondered about the minority response. I'm glad Williams understands that it takes a community response to combat racism and bigotry.
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  • momtoacemomtoace 11 replies6 threads New Member
    Am reading some Facebook comments about a 1980 cross-burning incident that turned out to have been done by a Black student who wanted to bring attention to racism on the campus. Whether that will be the case here or that the perpetrator is really intent on genocide, the important thing for the administration and students is the response.

    Like you, GT, I am heartened by the rapid and full response to it. During their events for the day, they are even having an open forum where students can speak about incidents of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc they have experienced on the campus. This is about as far from sweeping it under the rug an institution can go.
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  • SDonCCSDonCC 2324 replies49 threads Senior Member
    They sent the letter by email to alumni this morning, too. It is good to see the school being very active in their response and engaging the entire campus in ensuring that everyone feels safe as part of the college community.
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  • minimini 26167 replies259 threads Senior Member
    I am very pleased to see it, especially after the very, very weak response to a similar anti-Semitism episode a few years ago.
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  • lasallistalasallista 5 replies0 threads New Member
    As a parent of a minority student at Williams, I am certainly glad the administration took the actions it did today in response to the hateful message found on Saturday. I must start by saying that there are probably no more than a few kids involved in this incident, although I would discount the notion that it is the action of a sole individual. Typically a written hateful message is left on a dare by those who share a view, or are pushed by peer pressure, to participate in these actions. Most likely fueled by a little alcohol on a weekend night.
    Nevertheless, I am disheartened, that there are people at Williams, no matter how many, that expressed themselves through this message. I thought all of these brilliant kids were above that, but I guess they are not. It breaks my heart that my kid may be surrounded by some "closet haters" who treat him with disdain because he does not come from a privileged ethnic background.
    If the administration is truly serious about putting an end to these activities, in addition to all the rhetoric that went on today, it should expel the perpetrators if found. Regardless of whom they are. That would teach a lesson of intolerance towards what the administration deems on the Williams website a “harmful, hateful–and illegal–act”.
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  • minimini 26167 replies259 threads Senior Member
    Not much is still available on line about the previous incident:

    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/williams-college/338427-controversy-williams.html

    During this incident, an all-college meeting was called. 18 people showed up, including not a single representative of the college administration. So this is definitely progress (OR, Williams takes anti-Black sentiment more seriously than pro-Hitler, anti-Semitic sentiment. As an alum, I'm hoping the former.)

    But there is a ton on Ephblog from that period.
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  • minimini 26167 replies259 threads Senior Member
    This one is from last year, I think:

    William's Club: "Not there, yet..." | Eph Log 3.6a(lpha): Moving Forward

    I think it helps put the current incident in further context.
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  • SDonCCSDonCC 2324 replies49 threads Senior Member
    Apparently, this incident brought forth reaction from students about the difficulties they have experienced as minorities on the campus. When I read that in the letter from Mr. Falk, it made me wonder if this is something that is common to all college communities -- ie, that perhaps it seems like everyone gets along on the surface, but there really are issues with how people really feel underneath about their place in the community. Now, this link to the article of last year gives me pause about the Williams community as a whole, and the issue of a monolithic culture which many prospies come to this forum to wonder about....

    I am an alumni, and have no kids on campus. The only people I know who do have their children at the school are parents of athletes which is what seems to define the culture at the school. So, it's hard for me to get a read on what it's really like for others at the school.

    I will add this: not long after I graduated, the school made a concerted effort to increase the diversity on campus. I thought that was great. I guess it takes alot to ensure that people of different backgrounds and beliefs really can not only co-exist but live together with a shared sense of humanity.
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  • SDonCCSDonCC 2324 replies49 threads Senior Member
    It also seems like it takes the worst in people to bring out the best in people. I am sure that plenty of people will step forward on campus to engage in further dialogue and action on this issue.
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  • cckerrycckerry 108 replies12 threads Junior Member
    If only that state school in pa was as proactive ... these are moments that test an institute's character / culture ...
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  • atidrepatidrep 77 replies10 threads Junior Member
    I am an alumna of the school as well, and this incident, my own children's forays into college applications, and even the current state of the country have had me reflecting on many of my experiences at Williams. While I never heard or witnessed any explicit racism at the school, it is a conventional place primarily devoted to first the team and then the firm. I remember a classmate, just made junior law partner, who I'm sure thought of himself as an aware, liberal guy talking about how hard it was to hire African-Americans, confused about why they had such a hard time "fitting in." It gave me the willies. He'd gone from prep school to Williams to law school to law firm, gated communities one and all, focused on his success, and didn't really know much about the world for all his world travels first class, never really would, even though the decisions he made would affect so many. At another recent gathering I head another Williams alum, from some bank or hedge fund, talking about the greedy people who had created the mortgage crisis by trying to buy homes obviously beyond their means. I suppose what concerns me about Williams is a kind of single--minded focus on success and winning and ambition that has created some real monsters. That's the truth. My husband won't go to the reunions after standing in line at a buffet listening to a woman blithely talking about the woes of buying up farmland to build strip malls. Now in fairness, there are many people I loved from Williams, and there are many who have gone on to do great and good things for other people and the planet, but it was, and I suspect even more so now, a very conservative place. My musings here are serious. My daughter wouldn't even look at the school; my son probably will. Should he go there? I'm not sure...
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  • electronblueelectronblue 1287 replies17 threads Senior Member
    I'm a parent. The overwhelming majority of Williams students are good, kind people. Yes, there is something of a socioeconomic disconnect, but that exists in society and probably all elite schools as they have diversified their student bodies. There's still a lot of old boy network alive and well at HYP with exclusive clubs and such. I think Williams as an institution is making great efforts. I hope it continues. I'd like to see more support for lower income students, particularly those from non-competitive academic backgrounds.
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  • EphmanEphman 458 replies4 threads Member
    It is so hard to draw conclusions from this and other events without knowing who is responsible.

    I find it somewhat odd that, over a period of years, there have been a number of highly similar incidents, all done in similar fashion and timed in similar ways (to make the most impact). It doesn't feel to me like a bunch of disconnected random drunken type episodes.

    It is really, really easy to gain access to Williams buildings, especially on a Saturday night when a lot of kids are drinking and a ton of random people are wandering around campus. Could this pattern be the work of one person who has a grudge against the campus and wants to make Williams look bad, or just enjoys seeing the campus have a massive reaction in response to their activity? I wouldn't be shocked, especially in light of information that came to light about folks who were involved in at least one racist incident at Williams, and one eventually-banned Ephblog poster (unaffliated with the college so far as anyone knew) who seemed to know a lot about Williams and consistently expressed scarily-racist views. I have no idea, that is just one theory. It could be one trouble-making student who has been on campus for the past few years, who again just enjoys creating a stir and has never been caught. I find both of those scenarios more plausible than the idea of a series of closet virulent racists running around Williams over the years.

    I have known a VERY wide variety of Williams students and alums, and while I didn't love all of them, I have never known any to express any sort of racial or other form of animus, certainly not in my or younger generations. Williams is one of the more liberal, enlightened environments I have been in, and it is just not a place that breeds or tolerates this type of behavior. I guess it is possible that 3-4 drunk racist a*holes were responsible for this series of events, but somehow, I would bet there is a different explanation. Heck, we have precedent, as in the early 90's a black student posted something racist as a project for a class on anarchy. Could one student (of indeterminate race) be engaged ni a similar "project" during their time at Williams?

    The point I am making is that, it is not fair to make generalizations or assumptions about what this signifies for campus culture, since we have no idea whether this is the group of one racists person, various racist people, one troublemaker trying to get the campus in a tizzy, one person with a grudge against Williams who wants to make the school look bad, or so on. Whichever the answer has a dramatically different implication for what, if any, reflections on larger Williams culture we should make. I mean, I am telling you, the student body composition, nor the culture in regards to diversity, athletics, etc. is not materially different at Williams from virtually every NESCAC school, and most don't seem to have any of these issues.

    In my mind, we shouldn't really base college policy on this episode, since we have no idea the perpetrator or motivation, or whether it was even a student(s). What I am more concerened about are views expressed by minority students in conjunction with these episodes or events regarding a broader slice of their experience at Williams, and less overt forms of racism / discomfort they have experienced. Those more general thoughts, critiques and experiences are the ones the college should be tailoring its policies to address, since at least there Williams can get concrete feedback and work from a base of specific knowledge.
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  • electronblueelectronblue 1287 replies17 threads Senior Member
    Wise words Ephman. This occured on Homecoming Weekend, with alums, guests from other schools, etc. on campus. It's very easy to access buildings. I think it's important to keep an open mind that it just is not known who did this and what motivation was at work. I don't think this act reflects the student body. That's not to say people don't experience racism on campus though.
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  • lasallistalasallista 5 replies0 threads New Member
    I must temper my earlier comments and echo the sentiments of Electronblue, as he/she praises Ephman's post. Very wise words indeed.

    This incident may have happened in any number of ways and I think it is important to keep an open mind. I think I jumped the gun by assuming it was left by current Williams student(s). It may have well been the actions of outsiders, particularly being that foot traffic increased during Homecoming weekend. Racism is still alive in this country. I feel it in subtle ways almost on a daily basis. Yesterday's pause to publicly expose this issue in an open manner speaks volumes about Williams and the current administration.
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  • midlifedadmidlifedad 20 replies0 threads New Member
    I, too, am an alumnus, and my children also wouldn't consider my school. I read these pages often and I see the defensiveness that many parents of current and recent students--more than the students themselves, who sound nuanced in comparison--feel about accusations that Williams is all about jocks, or drinking, or getting a job on Wall Street. The school is definitely more diverse in its population than when I went there, but there is a nagging sense, with this slow repetition of unsavory events, that something just isn't going well with the diversification. Defensiveness and saying, well, my kid isn't a jock and he loves it, just doesn't quite answer the concerns.

    That said, I am hopeful that the new president is handling this situation differently than his predecessor.

    Sometimes I just wish that my alma mater, with all its money, prestige, beautiful campus and talented students, could really make the next step forward in its long and special history.
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  • interesteddadinteresteddad 23879 replies298 threads Senior Member
    I think the fairest way to put it is not that Williams has done a poor job of addressing its diversity culture, but rather that it has failed to do an above-average job. The issue is one of institutional culture and extends to hiring (for example, missing a golden opportunity to hire its first non-white guy President in 200 years), admissions priorities, and other issues.

    It's a complex difficult problem to go from diversity as a numeric measure to diversity as a pervasive quality in the campus community. Rather that bash Williams for not getting it right yet, it probably makes more sense to give a tip of the hat to those schools that have done exemplary jobs.
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  • minimini 26167 replies259 threads Senior Member
    I'm an alum (of an older variety), and I got a superb education at Williams. But I DID experience - firsthand - racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia. At the time, the college did think it best to "diversify" in admissions (it was a long time in coming, but at least it came!), but hadn't thought through what would be necessary - from the administration - to transform the campus culture to make it a welcoming place. Over the years (as well as during the time I was there), I knew (know) many minority, Jewish, and gay students. Many were/are happy there; some not. But in every case, students from these categories went despite the prevailing campus cultures toward these three groups, rather than because of it.

    My d. was recruited there (her skills and talent would have fit in very well), and for the most part, I attempted to keep my mouth shut. We visited three times, and I showed her the places where I had fond memories, and emphasized the extraordinarily fine academics (though, as it turned out, not in one of the areas in which she was most interested, in which it is generally acknowledged it is substantially weaker than its peers.) Despite excellent financial aid, and a very substantial push, she ended up turning Williams down, most strongly because of campus culture issues. Sigh.

    I too am pleased my President Falk's response (and do wish, strongly, that his predecessor had shown the same guts). I wish him (and my alma mater) well.

    "find it somewhat odd that, over a period of years, there have been a number of highly similar incidents, all done in similar fashion and timed in similar ways (to make the most impact). It doesn't feel to me like a bunch of disconnected random drunken type episodes."

    Ephman - we know precisely where (and who) was involved in the last major anti-Semitic incident (the perpetrator wasn't drunk at all, and it wasn't random, and wasn't done by a freshman); we know where the reported homophobic episode happened (though, apparently, there have been a whole raft of them), and it didn't come from outside the campus.
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  • minimini 26167 replies259 threads Senior Member
  • electronblueelectronblue 1287 replies17 threads Senior Member
    The response to Mary Jane Hitler was pathetic. That is a different sort of case where the actor was known and motivations and lack of remorse were made clear.
    We don't have such clarity in the current case but I believe it is wise of the administration to take it at face value. Clearly it affects members of the community as such. I don't think taking a day for dialogue does anything towards preventing idiots or remorseless haters from taking Sharpies in hand in the future, but it does allow people to be heard and that's a good thing.
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