Claiming Williams Day 2011: Our Stories, Our Responsibilities, Our Community

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

The Williams community will gather on Feb. 3 to express and affirm campus narratives and values in a series of events comprising the third annual Claiming Williams Day. The day’s events include several discussions, films, a performance, and a bonfire.

Claiming Williams seeks to invigorate the discourse on unexamined norms at Williams. This year, the theme for the day is “Our stories, our community, our responsibilities.” The program, organized by a steering committee of students, staff, and faculty, will feature dialogue rather than just lecture, with discussions exploring a spectrum of topics from ideological diversity to nontraditional students.

“Emphasizing personal experiences keeps Claiming Williams Day focused on the community of Williams itself,” said steering committee member Johannes Wilson. “Lectures allow one person to speak, but discussions allow many people to speak to each other.”

The day’s events begin at 9 a.m. on the MainStage at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance with a panel of current faculty and staff who graduated from Williams between 1958 and 2006. They will share their Williams experiences from different vantage points, past and present. President Adam Falk will deliver opening remarks.

The exploration of Williams history through personal stories will continue later in the afternoon at a community forum titled “Perspectives from the Front Lines of Change at Williams,” in Griffin 3 at 1:45 p.m. This forum will feature alumni and former Williams faculty and administrators who witnessed key moments in the college’s history, including the abolishment of fraternities in the early 1960s, the move to co-education in the 1970s, and the Stand With Us movement in 2008.

Two events will build on recent campus discussions about the role of athletics at Williams. The first, at 11 a.m. in Goodrich Hall, is a community forum titled “Yard by Yard: Creating an Identity at Williams,” in which students will discuss how their campus experiences have been shaped by their roles as athletes or non-athletes. The second, a screening of Dave Zirin’s 2010 documentary, “Not Just a Game: Power, Politics, and American Sports,” will be held at 3:45 p.m. on the ’62 Center MainStage. A conversation with associate producer Diane Williams ’02 will follow.

The emphasis on discussion will extend to the fine arts in “The Art of Dialogue at the Museum,” a discussion at 1:45 p.m. in the Rose Study Gallery of the Williams College Museum of Art. This facilitated conversation will integrate academic and personal reflections on artwork by Kara Walker, Glenn Ligon, and Pepon Osorio that grapples with class, race, gender, and privilege.

Other events of the day include a screening of Lee Mun Wah’s 1995 film, “The Color of Fear,” at 1:45 p.m. on the ’62 Center MainStage. This landmark documentary centers on raw conversations about both white racism and inter-minority racism. Educator and activist Victor Lewis will join the screening. Also at 1:45 p.m., in Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall, Allan Johnson, author of Privilege, Power, and Difference (Mc Graw-Hill, 2005), will present an analytic framework for discussing privilege in a way that does not create guilt in its beneficiaries. Both Lewis and Johnson will also lead smaller discussions at 3:45 p.m.

Then, at 8 p.m. on the ’62 Center MainStage, the Williams community is invited to attend Herstory, a spoken-word poetry performance combining comedy, rhythm, and chorus that tells the stories of four women who grew up in the United States. The day will close with a bonfire at 10 p.m. hosted by the Williams Outing Club.

“Claiming Williams is a good time for people to share their experiences and how they think that could help others here,” Wilson said. “People tell these stories because they think change can happen, and it is important to use this knowledge to change Williams for the better. We all live together, so we have to take into consideration how our stories affect others’ stories and how everything we do affects one another.”

All members of the Williams community are encouraged to attend the day’s events. For a complete schedule and event descriptions, please visit