There is a lot of scrutiny of higher education, generally, and about Williams, specifically, across a number of issues. We in alumni relations are here—and always have been—to connect you with the Williams of today. That may mean answering your questions about what’s happening on campus or in higher education. It may involve providing important perspective and information. Sometimes, it just means being a sounding board. Through it all, we appreciate hearing your voices and listening to what you have to say. It guides our thinking at the college every day.
It’s easy for alumni to perceive a distance between themselves and the students of today. That distance comes through in a variety of ways that include oversimplifying or generalizing the student experience. Even using “them” to describe undergraduates instead of “us”—a more accurate representation of their standing within the Williams family—can create distance. For it’s only a matter time before they cross the stage at Commencement and join our ranks within the Society of Alumni. The commonality of their Williams experience with yours will be palpable in many ways, less so in others.
Mutual respect, empathy and caring are required for any family to thrive and navigate difference.
Within the alumni community, viewpoints are remarkably consistent in many areas across the generations. We know this because more than 6,000 of you shared your opinions in a recent alumni survey. Ninety-plus percent of Eph responders agree with the statement that “American colleges should encourage the free expression of many points of view.” Equal percentages agree that “student debt and financial aid are important issues.” These issues and many others are front of mind in the public discourse. You can be certain they are front of mind here on campus, too.
Many of you are paying close attention to the Williams of today, and I offer some simple reminders of how to follow campus discourse. Read Williams Magazine online (magazine.williams.edu) or when it hits your mailbox. Monitor student perspective by reading The Record online (williamsrecord.com). Follow college and alumni office social media sources. You can always contact our office when you have a question about an issue facing higher education that you’ve read about or if you want to understand the campus climate. And, as always, we’d love to welcome you back for a first-hand view when the opportunity presents itself. Distance from the college, both in miles and years removed from it, often shapes your connection to Williams and fellow alumni.
Ultimately, it’s our job to help bridge these gaps—to minimize the distance felt from your college and the people who make it the community it is today. Regardless of opinions held by each of us, we are one family. And we all know that family dynamics are nothing if not complex. In a world that reminds us of this every day, mutual respect, empathy and caring are required for any family to thrive and navigate difference. Thanks for the part you play in helping Williams do both.
—Brooks Foehl ’88, Director, Alumni Relations