Williams College administration expresses support for segregated housing

Not long ago I wrote about how both a group of students and the student newspaper at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts are pushing to get “affinity housing” for students (a euphemism for segregated housing). The activist students, grouped together under the rubric of CARENow, have an Instagram site with many of their thoughts and demands. On that site, as well as at this link, appears a list of demands from CARENow addressed to the Trustees of the College (there is also a letter to the President of Williams, Maud Mandel, demanding her response by tomorrow at 5 p.m.)

One of the demands is for segregated housing: housing segregated not just by race, but by sexuality and other “minority characteristics”:

3. Improve community spaces and establish affinity housing for Black, queer, and all other minoritized students.

“Minoritized” is a new word that was coined to emphasize deliberate oppression rather than numerical minority status.

This is not just housing by choice, which Williams students are apparently already allowed to do after their first year, when they can live with whom they want. Rather, the students are apparently asking for university-mandated sequestration of entire buildings or sections of buildings for minority groups. In other words, segregation. No straight people allowed here, no white people allowed there, no non-Asian people allowed over there. This is what liberals have been fighting against for years, but apparently segregation is back again, and now appeals to the Left.

As I’ve said before, Williams’s President appears to share many of the characteristics of Evergreen State’s compliant president, George “Invertebrate” Williams. Mandel has said that she will respond to the student’s demand s by the deadline, and apparently she’s already been discussing them with CARENow, including the odious “affinity housing”. On the Instagram site, that group reports (below) that “the administration expressed general support for affinity housing and together we came up with a pilot program for affinity housing that was feasible given the avenues of change at the college.”

So the Williams administration is in favor of affinity housing. Apparently the faculty has no say in this kind of decision, but unless somebody acts now, it seems to me inevitable that Williams will soon return to the bad old days of segregation.  Of course, if white people, or straight people, requested affinity housing, that would be horrible, something denigrated across the board—and rightly so.  It only appears okay when minorities demand to be segregated, for the very same reason that Woke Students say that minorities cannot be racist.

But it is still wrong, and inimical to the purpose of a college, to balkanize its students into identity groups that are given space to live together and exclude others. For reasons I described in this post, which mentions research showing that separation is not the best way to make disparate groups empathize with one another, it’s not good for colleges to allow (much less provide) segregated housing on campuses.

Here is the student group’s report:


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Lets ask these administrators how they would like it if we maintained separate housing in the military. Maybe go back to all black divisions in the army. You know, kind of like back on the Plantation. Because you are higher educated, is this why you should get segregation? Ah, the privileged.

  2. eric
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    IIRC, your alma mater Jerry (and mine) had Barrett – an all-girl’s dorm – and an International House where the international students as well as other kids with that ‘interest’ could live, but which wasn’t open to the regular lottery.

    Our laws and society in general does a poor job of tackling what I’ll call “problems of quantity.” We like bright line rules that apply to everyone. This is good, that is bad, and never the twain shall overlap. Unfortunately, I think this is a ‘problem of quantity,’ where some minimal level of providing students with special interest housing can be reasonable and even beneficial, but doing too much of it can quickly get corrupt, structurally unfair, and deleterious to the community.

    • Posted May 2, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      As far as I know, Williams doesn’t have sex-segregated dorms, and I agree with them (maybe segregated by bathrooms is ok!).

      And I definitely do NOT favor segregation of international students. That’s the worst way to get everyone to mingle and create mutual understanding.

      • Dragon
        Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        A nearby college had a few special dorms. One I recall was for immersion in a foreign language. So all the students there would be studying e.g. German as their major/minor. I believe that is acceptable.
        There were other dorms for members of the Band or soccer team.

        It would not be acceptable in my opinion to have a dorm where everyone spoke Spanish as their primary language (of course someone who had Spanish as their primary language AND pursuing a major or minor in Spanish would be acceptable).

        How do we enforce the rules if someone of Mexican descent studying only e.g. computer science wanted to live at the Spanish immersion dorm?

        The difference between the intentions and the practical application is what I think eric means by ‘problems of quantity’.

        • eric
          Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

          The difference between the intentions and the practical application is what I think eric means by ‘problems of quantity’.

          I’m…not sure? I was thinking more along the lines of “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.” Unfortunately, when it’s not clear where that transition takes place – or even worse, when reasonable people disagree on where that transition occurs – then it’s really difficult to create a social rule that’s going to make everyone happy.

          I think special interest housing is one of those situations. I’d argue the problem has to be treated with nuance, understanding, and the complexity it really has, rather than trying to shoehorn every request or instance of it into the same mold.

          I guess that for this particular social issue, I’m a subscriber to H.L. Mencken’s observation: “for every complex human problem, there is a solution that is neat, simple and wrong.”

  3. Simon Hayward
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    How many water fountain sub types are they going for? (Bottled water is politically incorrect so that’s out an an alternate option.)

  4. Posted May 2, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Methodist wing, Catholic floor, Baptist section. Dorms split backwards and forwards. Gays to the left, straights to the right. Now study and lights out at eleven.

    World getters more and more strange.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      I thought it was clowns to the left and jokers to the right?

    • eric
      Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Gays to the left, straights to the right.

      How about bottoms on the bottom floor, tops on the top, swingers in the treehouse?

      • Posted May 6, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        “The straight line is for straight passengers only.”?

        (The line, and meant as satire like anything in such a game, is from Leisure Suit Larry 5.)

  5. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Completely and utterly insane.

    • Posted May 2, 2019 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Not all Black people are gay-friendly, so a separate floor should be provided for each. And who gets which floor? Does one have a better view, a fresher paint job, newer couches?

  6. Jon Gallant
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    The “regressive” part of the appellation for the Regressive Left sure fits, and it applies perfectly to some faculty as well.

    At the Univ. of Washington, the campus Republicans are sponsoring a “bake sale” that dares to satirize Affirmative Action. A professor (who has been president and secretary of the local AAUP, no less) wants the admin to “break up” this heretical exercise. Her words: “If you’re a friend of affirmative action, this might be a time to write to our UW president and provost to encourage them to break up this bake sale. Hosting this sale at the HUB suggests the event has the implicit permission of the school to carry out what could be argued is hate speech. This undermines our collegial UW climate, and creates a hostile environment for students, faculty and staff of color.”

    In response, I asked if the AAUP would want to institute a new university Loyalty Oath, one affirming loyalty to Affirmative Action.

    • Posted May 2, 2019 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Would the cupcakes have been all-white? Or chocolate with red icing lips and white eyes? Would they have gluten-free alternatives?

      Hate *baking*? Wasn’t that already decided somewhere by some court?

  7. Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I just want somebody at one of these institutions to tell them the answer is no, hand these students a college search catalog and tell them the meetings done.

  8. mfdempsey1946
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    In my opinion, those who support “affinity housing” for students at Williams College have crossed the line from crass stupidity to outright evil.

    If no group at this institution has the clout to effectively oppose this evil, then it would be no loss to higher education or any other worthy cause if Williams College were to shut down entirely.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    One of the demands is for segregated housing: housing segregated not just by race, but by sexuality and other “minority characteristics” …

    Great, re-ghettoization. Maybe they can set it up as a series of Potemkin villages, with a shtetl over here, and a “colored-town” over there, a “homosexual quarter” on one side of campus, and a convent for unwed gals on the other — an amusement-park version of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

  10. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Does that mean that we were wrong to condemn South Africa for apartheid?

  11. TJR
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    So, segregation and apartheid are good as long as you rename them “affinity”?

    In the same way that tokenism is good if you rename it “diversity”.

  12. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Never mind the ethics of it, I’m not quite sure how this is even legal.

    • Posted May 2, 2019 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      They read the law to say no discrimination in favor of the majority.
      But they will not admit it

    • Andrew T. Dolan, PhD cand.
      Posted May 2, 2019 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Since students are not forced into the identity dorms and can still choose to live in a mixed dorm, I suspect it’d be legal. I’m assuming that no one outside the targeted identity group would want to live with folks who have made it clear that they don’t want to live with those outside their identity group. For that reason, I suspect the college wouldn’t be faulted for illegal exclusion.
      (Just in case: I’m not arguing for the identity group dorms but explaining why they might nonetheless be legal.)

  13. Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    It sounds confusing, insecure, and disheartening what the segregation proposal is doing at Williams.

    Stanford has many ‘themed’ houses: Zapata, Okada, Ujamma, Enchanted Broccoli Forest, etc., in addition to language and cultural houses. But they tend to promote inclusion and understanding rather than segregation. At least that’s what I thought.

  14. CAS
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Nothing like segregation to create mutual understanding and trust. It worked so well for hundreds of years! What could possibly go wrong?

  15. max blancke
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I suppose it is reaping a point I have made before, but I really don’t think the people advocating for segregated housing have thought the issue out.
    It seems like they are having a good time imagining what it would be like to exclude other classes of people they dislike, but have not anticipated what it will be like when they find themselves excluded from various places.

    But I don’t believe that they have really thought any of this through. That is not how they operate. They are very much like toddlers in that respect.

    • max blancke
      Posted May 2, 2019 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      repeating, not reaping.

  16. Ray Little
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Excuse me, do these people never expect to join the real world? The place, that is, where you live where you can afford the rent.

    • Posted May 2, 2019 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think they have thought that through that far.

  17. Graham
    Posted May 3, 2019 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    So how does a black gay person navigate their way through this? Will there be a gay section within the black housing? A black section within the gay housing? Both? Seems like a very expensive logistic nightmare.

  18. Posted May 3, 2019 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I’d suggest to give “affinity housing” to the ever-demanding woke students (regardless of their other traits), because being segregated from them will benefit all other students.

  19. Posted May 4, 2019 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    The CARE Now kids might be overstating their victory. Here are the words released by the President’s office:
    “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.”

    The full, long response was released to alumni yesterday: https://president.williams.edu/letters-from-the-president/our-past-current-and-future-work-for-an-inclusive-williams/

    • Posted May 4, 2019 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I’d like to postpone discussion of that till tomorrow if that’s okay. I am not as sanguine about the matter as you are, and will say that I think Williams ultimately will enact some kind of segregated housing. But let’s wait a day if we can on this.

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] The push for social justice there has now led to demands for racially segregated housing. (I was alerted to this by Jerry Coyne, who’s been on the case for a while.) Here’s the rationale as expressed by the […]

  2. […] The push for social justice there has now led to demands for racially segregated housing. (I was alerted to this by Jerry Coyne, who’s been on the case for a while.) Here’s the rationale as expressed by the […]

  3. […] The push for social justice there has now led to demands for racially segregated housing. (I was alerted to this by Jerry Coyne, who’s been on the case for a while.) Here’s the rationale as expressed by the […]

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