+ Letter from some members of the Faculty to Interim President McGuire and the Board of Trustees – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \

Coordinate Tradition

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Letter from some members of the Faculty to Interim President McGuire and the Board of Trustees (Summer, 2018)

Dear President McGuire and Members of the Board of Trustees,

We are writing to request that the Board of Trustees restart the project it began this year to initiate a community-wide conversation about the coordinate system. As a group of faculty who believe it is time to move toward uniting the Colleges and ending the coordinate system, we are disappointed that this project was put on hold. We urge the Board of Trustees to restart this community conversation with an emphasis on the following:

  • The voices of transgender and non-binary students and graduates. As faculty, we are painfully aware that many of our transgender students are harmed by the coordinate system and exposed to ongoing dangers whose effects linger long after graduation (including the risk that their Hobart or William Smith diploma will disclose their transgender identity to future employers and others, potentially putting them at risk for discrimination). We have listened to our non-binary students who are forced into a gender binary system that erases them as cherished members of our community (we have heard many accounts of how this alienation taints their college careers, often beginning with their very first days on campus). This project needs a clear plan to solicit their input, because there is no ethical way to pursue any course of change without meaningfully listening to their voices.


  • Respect for the dedicated work of staff and administrators whose jobs are tied to the coordinate system. As faculty, we know and value the dedicated work of our staff colleagues who have jobs associated with either Hobart or William Smith. We believe it is important that everyone in the community feel free to envision a new future for the Colleges without fear that uniting the Colleges will mean the loss of their jobs. Solving the problems of the coordinate system may require discussing some changes to administrative job titles and responsibilities. However, this project needs to proceed with a commitment that it will not be used as a pretense to fire staff.


  • Celebration of the rich history of the Colleges and an optimistic vision for the future. We believe that this is an exciting time to draw on the Colleges’ vibrant traditions and rich history of working toward equity and justice. A discussion of the coordinate system is an important component of our ongoing efforts to improve recruitment and retention. We believe that a community conversation about what unites us, what values we share, and what we hope to accomplish together is exactly what we need at this moment. We need to envision an identity for the twenty-first century that provides for meaningful changes while preserving the traditions and practices that we value. We believe we can do both.

We are writing at this time because we are concerned that the project was paused, in part, to allow a marketing and brand study to precede the conversation. Of course, collecting many different types of information is crucial to this process. But we hope that the discussion will not be unduly focused on marketing and branding considerations at the expense of other factors, such as the values of the Colleges and the needs of transgender and non-binary students. Rather than focusing on marketing or fears of a lost past, we hope that the Board of Trustees will initiate this conversation with a focus on equity and vision for the future. Thank you for your consideration, and please contact us if we can help with this exciting project.


Brien Ashdown, Associate Professor of Psychology

Geoff Babbitt, Assistant Professor of English

Eric Barnes, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Elizabeth Belanger, Associate Professor of American Studies

Alex Black, Assistant Professor of English

Jamie Bodenlos, Associate Professor of Psychology

Rob Carson, Associate Professor of English

Robert Cowles, Professor of Music

Donna Davenport, Professor of Dance

Jodi Dean, Professor of Political Science, Donald R. Harter ’39 Professor of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Hannah Dickinson, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric

Laura Free, Associate Professor of History

Kendra Freeman, Associate Professor of Sociology

Karen Frost-Arnold, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Greg Frost-Arnold, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Daniel Graham, Associate Professor of Psychology

Jessica Hayes-Conroy, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies

Cassie Herbert, Visiting Professor of Philosophy

Leah Himmelhoch, Associate Professor of Classics

Khuram Hussain, Associate Professor of Education

Alla Ivanchikova, Associate Professor of English

Mary Kelly, Associate Professor of Education

Ervin Kosta, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Juan Liébana, Associate Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies

Jim MaKinster, Professor of Education

Kirin Makker, Associate Professor of Art and Architecture

Heather May, Associate Professor of Theatre

Justin Miller, Associate Professor of Chemistry

Mukherji, Ani, Assistant Professor of American Studies

Patti, Lisa, Associate Professor of Media and Society

Erin Pelkey, Professor of Chemistry

Ben Ristow, Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric

Audrey Roberson, Assistant Professor of Education

Jason Rodriguez, Associate Professor of Anthropology

Naomi Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Education

Leah Shafer, Associate Professor of Media and Society

Caroline Travalia, Associate Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies

Maggie Werner, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric

Melissa Autumn White, Assistant Professor of LGBT Studies

Cadence Whittier, Professor of Dance

Chris Woodworth, Associate Professor of Theatre