Claiming Williams Day is a Williams College tradition that started a few years ago. It is a day of reflection, engagement and active learning. Some may see as a day off from classes. To others, Claiming Williams is a forum where students, staff, and faculty members can share stories about their experiences before Williams and the current factors that affect them now. Each year that we have Claiming Williams, we are strengthening our community. Being aware of the issues and factors that shape life at Williams is crucial to building the community we promote on flyers and webpages. Although the events that led up to Claiming Williams were ugly and hurtful, today the events of CW are inspiring and beautiful. For those of you who are not familiar with the history of Claiming Williams, read below:
“Claiming Williams was born when a series of incidents in an entry sparked a grassroots student movement that was joined by staff and faculty, and became known as Stand with Us. In January 2008, in a first year entry, the word “nigger” was scrawled on several doors along with pictures of male genitals. For one first year student, it was the escalation of incidents that had been going on for weeks. She was accused by her entry mates of calling security on their party, and then night after night the note board outside her door was defaced, including the bible verse she wrote up daily. The night that the word “nigger” was written on her entry’s doors, “the word ‘fag’ was written over my scriptures,” she recalled, along with vulgar pictures and words.
The community responded. In addition to a letter to the community from College President Morty Shapiro, College Council Co-Presidents Kim Dacres ’08 and Morgan Goodwin ’08 called for open discussions. On two consecutive nights, over a hundred students shared their own experiences and planned communal responses. Stand With Us emerged. A Pact Against Indifference and Hate was written, circulated for signatures, and read publically. An “awareness rally” drew an estimated 600 students, staff and faculty, and was followed by a march through campus that at one moment stretched from Schow Auditorium to the steps of Paresky. Stand With Us, in addition to an immediate response to the campus climate that enabled the incidents, had “three central priorities: a social honor code, a day of discussions on respect and diversity, as well as the integration of relatively homogenous ‘sub-communities’- whether sports teams or ethnic organizations- into the larger student body.”
Claiming Williams Day arose from Stand with Us—from their priorities and the hard work of a sub-committee. The hope was that the community would work pro-actively to prevent hurtful, hateful incidents, rather than just responding afterwards. The second Claiming Williams Day was held on February 4, 2010, and in May of 2010, the faculty voted to add Claiming Williams Day to the regular academic calendar.” -*This brief history is drawn from Williams Record articles (written October 2011).
Claiming Williams does not have to be an educational day where some individuals feel attacked. Instead, it should be a day where members of the Williams community can claim aspects of the Williams community for themselves. So, what will YOU claim this Claiming Williams day? For a list of CW events, click the link below. Have a great semester all!