To the editor: Williamstown is conducting the "Community Safety and Wellbeing Assessment." The study’s initial goal was “understanding views of residents to provide recommendations for aligning town policies and practices with community needs.”
At first, everyone was happy to support this goal. However, recent developments have led to concerns.
Our reservations are due to methods, data analyses, and budgetary issues. I take these in order:
• The methods of the study will lead to a biased sample in which researchers over-represent people who perceive a lack of safety: "researchers will specifically seek participation of those who perceive a lack of safety and well being."
This is not a random sample of the town's opinion. It is an attempt to buttress a preordained conclusion: that residents feel unsafe and the police are responsible. I object to studies designed to prop up a conclusion reached before the study is even conducted.
Furthermore, it is unclear how researchers will know who “perceives a lack of safety.” Will it be those of low socioeconomic class? Or, by surveying those "who have experienced marginalization and exclusion in the past," will the interviews focus on racial minorities, most now working for Williams College? This biased sample will lead to results that reflect the ideological goals of the researchers rather than reality.
• The data analyses should be unbiased. The data should be analyzed by nonpartisan people from outside town with no ideological or political goals. I understand that the Qside group might be involved in the analyses. This group has the ideological goal of demonstrating social injustices focusing on race.
In the past, the leaders of this organization have attempted to publicly shame a researcher because they disagreed with her opinion about diversity issues. It is divisive to hire this group and I hope we can find another nonpartisan path.
• The study is very expensive and funded by the town. The cost climbed from $60,000, with $81,000 added at a cost of over $50 dollars/household. If yet another $87,000 is granted, costs will increase to more than $80/household.
As the benefits from this study are unclear, the cost is unjustified.
In summary, the project suffers from methodological and data analyses problems, high cost and lack of tangible outcomes. I object to studies designed to reach preordained conclusions and find that there are cheaper and effective ways to reach people who feel unsafe ensuring people know facts about safety in town.
Luana Maroja, Williamstown