Sunday Times distribution good, but only first step; more changes needed to address apathy

As an interested reader of The Williams Record over a good many years, I have always been impressed by the great diversity of news and issues covered as well as some very good writing along the way.

I was particularly intrigued by the recent item concerning the decision of the College Council to undertake the purchase and distribution of the Sunday New York Times to every common room of every dorm with the expressed desire to stimulate political awareness among the student body. At a cost of about $15,000, according to their figures, it is a most admirable attempt on their part “to combat the proverbial Purple Bubble,” particularly considering the Council’s limited budget for a great variety of student activities. And according to the Record, there was an enthusiastic response to the first distribution.

A long time ago when I was a student at Mount Holyoke, in much less prosperous times I might say, a large stack of the Sunday Times would appear in every dorm downstairs before breakfast on Sunday to be read and discussed and generally strewn about all day by anyone with any interest at all, and paid for by parents who had checked off the item along with other miscellaneous things like laundry, health, etc. sent along with the college semester bill. Apparently that option is not available at Williams, to my surprise.

In conjunction with the ongoing discourse concerning political awareness and interest, as well as understanding and accepting diversity of all sorts, and the incidental exposure to the great variety of fields of study and fascinating backgrounds and experiences that are readily available to students at a fine residential liberal arts college like Williams, it has always seemed to me a serious loss that students can no longer have their meals in their own dorms and get to know their housemates better, except in the context of a noisy, alcoholic weekend party.

Separated into the outdated entry system, some students never get to know many of the other people in their own dorms, and often go to the large noisy college dining areas with their own group for every meal and rarely exchange views with others. With no set mealtimes and few amenities available in the commotion and confusion of mass feeding procedures, it is a serious deterrent to intellectual discourse and the creation of new friendship and acquaintance.

Another serious deterrent, in my view, to a more cosmopolitan and intellectual view of the world as well as the campus is the lack of any adult presence in the living quarters of the dorms. With the ongoing scarcity of adequate apartments, etc., in this area all the time, it would seem only sensible to offer willing college personnel the opportunity to live in a dorm at no expense and become a resident adviser, or whatever the title may be. Of course, I have been assured over the years that “that is not the Williams way.” Well, whether it is or not, it is an idea that a great many other institutions have always used and still do, to their advantage, and to that of their students.

My own four children all went to colleges where adults were part of the residence picture and were happy with it. My daughter was asked to be a resident at Yale when she was a grad student, which entailed free room and board, obviously a big help with expenses, and that she just be available to students at meals and in emergency. Down the hall from her room was a young faculty family with two small children sharing an apartment, and there were many others throughout the campus. It imparts a pleasant feeling of stability to the students and a place to go when a need arises. One of my sons did more or less the same thing when he was a senior at Penn in Philadelphia, and enjoyed the students as well as the recompense. One of my resident advisors was a graduate student when I was a junior, and we became life-long friends. It is often a rewarding experience for everyone concerned as well as a chance for students to share an adult point of view.

In conclusion, I thank the Record for the opportunity to express my views, wish them continued success with a fine newspaper, and am pleased that Williams students have been presented with the chance to savor one of the great newspapers of the world, The New York Times.

Dagmar E. Bubriski

Williamstown, Mass.

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