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Not All Williams Professors Are Excellent

An advantage of receiving a liberal arts education from Williams is having the opportunity to take various classes that may not be compatible with each other. For example, you could decide to take a variety of English classes while focusing on your Chemistry major, or you can even take DANCE 101 while finishing the major requirements in ECON. Although one of my favorite things about Williams is the diversity of classes, I think a close second would be the professors. After only being here for about 2 years, I have met some amazing professors. There are professors, here, who genuinely care about my academic well being, in class, as well as my emotional and physical well being, outside of classes. However, not all Williams professors are considered excellent on this standard, and of course there must be at least a few professors who make you wonder, “How exactly did they get hired?”

Prior to my experience this year, I was convinced that you could always succeed in a class regardless of having an awful professor. That is, until I took Division 3 lecture-based class transformed into a discussion class by a new professor. Imagine deriving Schrodinger’s equation in class format assembled like a seminar course in the English department.  

Now, I have no problem with new professors who come to Williams and want to share new techniques of teaching. I am more than happy to take a class with a teacher who Williams is confident is going to thrive in this work environment. While I am sure Williams has some sort of vetting process for the teachers they hire, I am noticing more and more that there are professors being hired that students describe as “intellectual” but “socially incapable of prospering as a teacher in the Williams community”.

Lately, I have begun to feel that Williams may be hiring professors that are qualified on paper, but under perform once they start teaching in the classroom. What is puzzling is that if Williams claims to accept students based on more than how they look on paper (i.e. SAT scores, GPA, etc.), why does it seem that our professors are being hired based on length of resume and flashiness of research, rather than on the same wholistic principles used in the student vetting process.

Maybe hiring is practiced under urgency of circumstance, filling the departments that are short-staffed in a rush to fill the spot. I have seen this specifically in division 3 classes. As a result of the rush, important aspects of teaching that are required of a possible candidate for professor seem to be downplayed or forgotten about in the hiring process of new faculty.  

I think that Williams’ interest in scrambling to fill a departmental position, neglects to truly take into account the reason for hiring a professor to begin with: to contribute to the overall growth of the student. This creates the potential of accumulating professors who are only here further their research, secure tenure, or to ask you to regurgitate information like robots. Rather than engaging with professors who go the extra mile, who are wholly invested in the growth of their students as intellectuals and as people, students in classes taught by “quick-fix” hires lose out on the opportunity to have that intellectual development and support.

Of course, I know that some students may have genuinely had nothing but positive experiences with professors here at Williams.  However, it is also important to acknowledge the experiences of other students whose time in class, here at Williams has not reflected the same positivity. I write this piece to share my own opinions and perceptions.


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