I don’t think he would’ve taken students to Oxford. He would’ve taken students to India and to Mogadishu, to Appalachia, to some place to give them a jolt. Not to give them something that they would relate easily to, but to give them something that would shake them up, make them change their perceptions. The poverty-stricken South in this country or India or other places where he thought they would learn a good deal more than they would learn from textbooks, and that was a source of some concern among some of the faculty that he was not teaching from textbooks mostly or from the ordinary kinds of materials that most professors used. He was stressing the importance of learning by being there and doing something. I had some questions about whether this was the way that undergraduate courses should be taught, and I suspect that others maybe shared that view. I won’t say he was controversial but there were a number of people on the faculty I think who questioned his emphasis on experiential education as opposed to reading the great works, reading the texts, discussing the texts, lecturing, taking notes, interchanging with a professor, at that kind of a level, rather than the way in which Bob liked to do it. I don’t say that he stressed experiential education at the expense of everything else but it was his pride and joy and he was the one who introduced really into Williams the idea of making experiential education a substantial part of the undergraduate curriculum.

Vince Barnett,
Former Political Science Department Chairman