Williams College guilty of self-absorption

As editors and writers at the Record, we have become used to contacting members of the administration on a weekly basis. Year after year, representatives from the Admission’s Office, Dean’s Office, President’s Office and other administrative branches, provide us with answers on such issues as tenure appointments, alcohol and drug use on campus and admissions and housing policy changes.

We are lucky to have an accessible and approachable administration. The President and Dean of the College, for instance, find the time to carry out their administrative duties, teach classes, and respond promptly to queries from students and faculty alike.

However, it is easy to be lulled into a sense of complacency over this arrangement, to accept accessibility from our administration in the place of real substance, to write the easy stories and shun real debate.

The Record is not guiltless in this dialogue (or lack thereof). As student newspaper editors, we are continually challenged to find reliable, interested writers who have the desire to tackle larger, more provocative issues in their articles. And as the semester progresses, exhaustion takes over and it is easy to slip into automatic mode, covering the routine and, sometimes, the mundane.

The administration and faculty, however, are little help in this regard. It is clear that our administrators are intelligent, thoughtful individuals, with interesting perspectives on different issues. But too few of these views make it into the pages of this newspaper. Too often the real dialogue takes place in casual conversations, in “secret” meetings between administrators and students, or “off the Record.”

When it comes to commenting to the student newspaper, the full p.r. machine kicks into gear, and the remarks are banal and lacking in the spirit of debate which is supposedly inherent in a liberal arts education.

Debate and discourse at Williams are too often fragmented and unfocused, occurring in isolated pockets of the campus, in a class or among friends.

The Gaudino Forum instituted last year by Associate Professor of Philosophy Samuel Fleischacker represents a valiant attempt to mend this problem, to provide a centralized structure for debate at Williams. But how often do you hear members of the Williams community discussing last week’s forum?

As an institution, Williams takes a lot of flak for instilling an elitist, isolationist attitude amongst its faculty and students. According to some, we don’t know and don’t care about what is happening in the broader world. But how many faculty and students know and care about what is happening at Williams? How many of us spend time—in between writing our papers or getting articles published, chatting at the snack bar or going for a run— really thinking about the institution to which we belong? And does the administration desire this complacency?

Too often at the Record we find ourselves coming up with our stories based on little student mandate because we really don’t know what is important to our fellow students. Too often we come up with what we think are important issues and receive disappointing, trivial responses from the powers that be. Too often we are unable to assess the job we are doing because the words published on the pages of this newspaper too soon diffuse and fade into the fixtures of this beautiful campus.

We consider it a great privilege to define and publicize the major issues of the day at Williams. But we also feel somewhat isolated in this effort. And without the participation of the rest of the campus community, we cannot do our job well. Williams students love perfecting themselves. But they have less of a desire to perfect the community of which they are a part. And, in some ways, the administration banks on this self-absorption.