Williams School to move forward with expansion plans

Changes include renovations to Huntley Hall, a new department structure and more


Huntley Hall, where the Williams School is located. Photo by Kaelan McCabe, ’21.

Emma Thai

The Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics is moving forward with the plan to expand its curriculum and facilities.

Architects from Goody Clancy firm in Boston have met with faculty to discuss plans to renovate and reconfigure the interior of Huntley Hall and to construct a new building on Washington Street, according to an email to Williams School students.

Students met with the lead architect on January 26 to discuss their preferences about classroom spaces and community spaces.

No official plans or details have been released, but the current university strategic plan outlines goals to “expand offerings for non-majors in the Williams School” and to “upgrade facilities to support learning, teaching and conferencing needs.”

But the major issue within the Williams School is not the lack of physical space, it’s the shortage  of faculty, said Dennis Garvis, a business administration professor and former department head.

Some changes to the faculty structure of the Williams School have already been planned.

In July 2020, all finance faculty will be moved from the business administration department to the accounting department. There will be an operating committee between the two departments to increase communication.

“In my time, the number of business majors has tripled,” Garvis said. “And the business faculty has not tripled.”

Classes, such as introduction to economics, introduction to accounting and managerial finance, are notoriously difficult to get into during registration, even for Williams School majors.

“People can’t get into business classes when they need them,” Garvis said. “There ends up being classes taken out of sequence.”

The Williams School considered making an application to become a business major, but decided that to make it exclusive would undermine the liberal arts nature of the institution, Garvis said.

Many students with majors outside of the Williams School want to take business classes as well, but aren’t able to get in during registration. English major Anna Hurst, ’22, took introduction to economics during her freshman year, even though it didn’t fulfill any requirements for her major.

“I think it’s a class that everyone should take to understand the economy in some form,” she said. But she was of the lucky few to even get into ECON 100.

Abby West, ‘21, a chemistry major, said she has been struggling to get into introductory business classes because she recently changed her post-graduation plans.

“I want to take a C-School class because I realize that I don’t want a hard science lab position after graduation,” she said. “I am really interested in integrating chemistry and business and possibly going to business school. However, it’s really hard to get the classes, especially beginner classes geared towards underclassmen.”

No additional plans to remedy these concerns have been formally released, but even when plans are announced, they may not be approved, Garvis said.

“Over 20 years, I’ve probably been involved in as many of these change proposals as anyone.” Garvis said. “I can only think of one or two that every got approved.”