Campus controversies

This page lists titles and brief descriptions of the controversies that have torn this campus. If an event will be discussed in a dedicated page, please make the heading here a link to that page.

2019

WIFI (Williams Initiative for Israel)

In April of 2019, College Council voted against recognizing WIFI as an officially registered student organization, believing that the group may support Israeli statehood in a way that also supported human rights abuses and the occupation against Palestine. WIFI is the first club in over a decade that complied with all of the College Council bylaws for recognition but did not gain RSO status.

For more information, click here.

The Green Love Controversy

In the days leading up to the start of spring semester, two professors (Kai Green '07 and Kimberly Love) canceled their courses and spent a semester on medical leave in order to protest the college's institutional "violent practices," "transphobia," and "anti-blackness."

For more information, click here.

Affinity Housing

Recently, students have been advocating for living spaces of affinity around a common identity as a response to increasing feelings of "tokenization and isolation" that Williams' current housing options fail to address.

CARE Now (Coalition Against Racist Education Now) published a demand calling for the establishment of "affinity housing for Black students and all other marginalized groups" to create safe spaces, with tremendous support and backing from the Black Student Union. Arguments against this demand included the fear that affinity housing may promote further isolation and work against the idea of an integrated community.

In response to this series of events, Williams College has been a subject of conversation on many news networks and websites.

For more information, click here.

The Chicago Free Speech Statement Controversy

The Williams College administration has been grappling with how to adjudicate issues of free speech and expression, and there has been discussion and debate about adopting the principles of the free speech policy statement initially originating from the University of Chicago.

In response to a faculty petition on the Chicago Principles, a student and opposing faculty run counter-petition began to circulate around as well, leading President Maud Mandel to announce the formation of an ad hoc committee on inquiry and inclusion. For more information on this subject, please reference the following articles:

"On the Chicago Statement: Recognizing nuance and encouraging collaborative conversations around expression" by the Williams Record Editorial Board

"Students, faculty spar over free speech, speaker invitations"

"A Collective Student Response to the "Chicago Statement"

2006

Willipedia Campus Controversies Controversy

After the debut of the Williams Students Online Wiki, 'Willipedia', students and alumni debate the merits of publicly displaying emails and other information relating to past campus controversies.

Impact of athletics

How athletics affect academic and social life at Williams has been an issue of perennial public debate. At the second to last College Council meeting of the year, 5/3/2006, the topic of what next year's CUL should discuss was raised. The impact of athletics on Williams was a possibility which was hotly debated in council. The Record learned of the debate and published an editorial in their last issue which inflamed a large portion of the campus. ([1])The article drew a strong correlation between athletes, destructive behavior, and the suffocation of academics and non-athletic social activities. In particular the editorial cited tipped athletes as particularly problematic, and perhaps undeserving of admission to the college. The editorial sparked a heated debate, much of which focused on the journalistic integrity of the editorial and the fact that it had been inserted into the last issue of the year, thus offering no opportunity for rebuttal. There are no current plans for CUL or any other body to discuss the effect of athletics, especially in light of the thorough examination the topic recieved in 2004. For that repot, click here.

2005

Anchor Housing

Debate over new system of residential life devised by the CUL to replace free agency reaches a crucial point, and all sectors of Williams from the administration, to the students, to the trustees enter the debate over the future of residential life at Williams. Student opponents of the system organize themselves as Anchors Away. See the History and Student Opinion sections of the main article.

2004

Kechley Krazy Kookout

A flyer for the music department's annual spring cook-out at Professor David Kechley's house used the title "Kechley Krazy Kookout" and highlighted the initials KKK. Many found the initials (identical to those of the Ku Klux Klan) offensive and insensitive.

Art Department Racial Slur Incident

A comment using the term "nigger" made by a studio art professor at a department meeting in Spring 2004 was the spark for a number of events of campus-wide publicity and importance that, together, are probably rightly called a scandal.

2003

Queer Bash Email Incident

An email sent by Nate Winstanley '04 on behalf of the Queer Student Union (QSU) to all-campus to publicize the fall 2003 Queer Bash drew vehemently disapproving emails from two first-year students. When the text became public it was a spark for campus-wide discussions on homophobia and how insensitive speech should be handled at Williams.

1962

Elimination of fraternities

Responding to growing concerns about the role of fraternities at Williams, the college chose to eliminate the fraternity system, over the protests of many students and alumni.

1958

Coffin House Shooting

One night in April 1958, a shotgun blast destroyed the window on the family home of William Sloane Coffin, the College Chaplain. Because Coffin was an outspoken opponent of fraternities, the police investigation focused on student members. Eventually, two students in Delta Kappa Epsilon came forward and confessed. They were fined by the town and expelled by the College.