Ice Cream and President Payne

With the arrival of hordes of high school seniors who are now considering Williams as a place to spend their next four years, we at the Record had the opportunity to experience first hand how exactly Williams lives up to its reputation.

We spend the weekends in our office in the basement of Baxter Hall requesting, reading, editing and laying out our articles. Along with the rest of campus, we decided to get out in the fresh air on Sunday, go to Lickety Split, eat some ice cream and enjoy the sun. While we were walking across Baxter Lawn, we saw President Payne and asked him to join us. He did.

Truth be told, President Payne did nothing extraordinary in eating ice cream with us. We talked about the upcoming override vote, discussed Spring Street renovations and marveled at the weather. Yet, the enjoyment of the afternoon did not come from the fact that eating ice cream with the President was all that big a deal. The enjoyment came from the fact that it was not.

All too often we are reminded that Williams is an excellent school, that the focus is on the students, and that a communal atmosphere (for the most part) dominates the campus. We have grown accustomed to all of this. We have not necessarily been aware of the fact that this is not the norm. There are schools whose presidents have never met any of their students, let alone spent a half hour eating ice cream with them.

Certainly, we see it as our duty to have a critical eye toward campus issues. A critical eye does not entail simply pointing out flaws on campus. It also entails pointing out things on campus that, while mundane, add to our experience here. Sunday fits that description.

There is no doubt that the College is at a bit of a crossroads. Serious questions have come up as to the quality of our social life, the necessity of a diverse student body, the commitment (and cost) of financial aid and relations with Williamstown. All of these issues warrant – in fact demand – serious attention. None of them have a particularly easy answer; if they did, they would not be particularly pressing. Our role – both as members of the Record and the student body at large – is to add to the process of evaluation, to add to, and better, the demeanor of a sometimes cliquish and apathetic campus. A campus which, as a social and academic community, does not always live up to its reputation.

That reputation can at times be a double-edged sword. It can attract and disinterest students who are thinking of coming and who are here already. As we all know, however, while we can see trends in the “Williams type” of student and a typical college experience, there are too many individuals that defy easy characterization and labelling. No one experience here defines “Williams” more than any other. The reality is much more nuanced than that; it is a reality that one can recognize only through experience.

And yet, we can be described as nothing other than a community, with good points and bad. We hope to enhance the former and decrease the latter. In a sense, we hope to continue to work to better the school – and eat some ice cream along the way. To our visitors: no, it is not always this warm in Williamstown, but we enjoy it here; we hope you will too. Who knows, there might be some ice cream in it for you.