Letter: Williamstown diversity panel could use some diversity itself

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To the editor:

Recently, the Williamstown Select Board sought applicants to serve on an advisory committee on diversity, inclusiveness, race and equity to address such concerns in town. From a pool of 25 applicants as well as individuals who were sought out, Select Board Chairwoman Jane Patton and Town Manager Jason Hoch appointed a committee of nine, Patton included. Full disclosure: I applied, but given my reputation as a critic or gadfly, I was neither surprised nor particularly upset at being rejected.

However, having devoted much energy as an educator to addressing prejudice in its diverse manifestations, I was curious as to what particular qualifications were deemed necessary to serve on the committee of nine — and which town residents were chosen to fill the places of a committee that is, by its own definition, supposed to reflect diversity in its "casting." To wit: "The Select Board will strive to ensure that the membership is diverse and composed of representatives of different elements of the Williamstown community."

This is not meant as an attack on any of the fine individuals who were chosen or drafted. However, the choices altogether are astonishingly lacking in diversity, especially in areas of socioeconomics, profession/professional affiliations, age and length of time residing in Williamstown. The majority of the appointees would qualify as scholars/academics with four of them having or having had close ties to Williams College. One of the appointees is not even a resident of town.

Absent are: an educator from the elementary or high schools (obvious and vital places where bias must be addressed), a senior citizen/retiree/long-time resident with roots, a shop owner, a blue-collar worker or, yes, a representative from law enforcement. With such true diversity lacking, the uncomfortable yet customary whiff of elitism sometimes endemic to small-town politics arises, and the individually worthy members become part of a club of the influential.

This is a pity as well as a shameful irony.

Ralph Hammann,

Williamstown

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