One of the truly unique aspects of college life is the abundance and availability of educational and cultural experiences on campus outside the classroom. The four years we spend at Williams should allow us to pursue our academic interests not just through courses and the accompanying work, but also – just as importantly – through lectures, performances, exhibits and the like.
More often than not, we’re given that opportunity, and we should obviously be thankful for it. But there is such thing as an embarrassment of riches, and last week’s frenetic rush of quality events is a perfect example. Since Spring Break ended, the “Future Selves” Lecture Series featured lectures by Dr. Ian Wilmut and Laurie Anderson, “Whose Responsibility Is It?” brought speakers Dr. John McGill ’71, Dr. Philippe Nyambi and Gertrude Sgwento, Jazztown included performances by the Billy Taylor Trio, The Tom Harrell Quintet and Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Alicia Rios discussed Spanish cuisine, and the world-renowned Takaks quartet flew in from Eastern Europe to perform.
That’s simply too much to be processed in one week. While it’s ridiculous to expect that most students would even want to attend a majority of the aforementioned events, it’s just as ridiculous to schedule them in such a mad rush that a majority of them become – due to work schedules, conflicts and other reasons – mutually exclusive. With so many high-profile events in one week, the meaning and impact of the events themselves is significantly lessened. Obviously, it’s foolish to complain about the abundance of options we had this week, but it makes much more sense to question the sagacity of the scheduling that crammed all of these lectures and performances into one busy week.
Let’s face it: as a relatively small college, Williams does not overflow with all of the events, bells and whistles that larger universities can boast. We went through much of February, for example, with a fairly sparse events schedule; back then the complaint was that there wasn’t enough to do, not that there was too much. The bottom line is simple. We can’t reach the Utopian ideal of exciting lectures taking place every evening, so it would only be prudent to take more rigorous steps to ensure that the key events are more adequately spaced out. Obviously some events – Jazztown, for example – require civic cooperation and/or scheduling way in advance – but others must be planned with more foresight.
The Lecture Series, to cite one such potential instance, sponsored two excellent lectures this week, but in setting them immediately after students’ return from Spring Break, it complicated what was already a hectic mess. Last year’s series took place in early March, a much less busy time and therefore a better one, assuming that the College’s goal is to maximize the facility of lecture and event attendance. It’s not a bad dilemma to have, obviously, but it’s still one that should be addressed. We have at Williams an impressive array of resources; now the focus must shift to implementing them to the fullest.