For What it’s Worth: the comfortable campus

When I graduated high school, my eldest brother gave me a firm handshake and a card as congratulations. The handshake wasn’t particularly memorable, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget what the card said. Written inside was this: “Enjoy the next four years, it’s the most fun you’ll ever have.” At the time I remember being even more excited about going off to college. But now, with the benefit of hindsight, I think I actually find that inscription a little troubling. I hope that’s not all college turns out to be.

Williams is a nice place to live. We live in nice dorms where someone cooks for us, cleans up after us and most anything we’d like is wired into our rooms. We have access to facilities that in the real world would be available only to the most well-off members of society. In essence, we live at a country club. Similarly, our social life is pretty well regimented with weekly parties and plenty of cheap beer. We go through our daily routine with hardly a care in the world. Williams is a comfortable existence.

Many here accept this as the best of all worlds. The pre-party, row houses, late night: these are the components of the Williams weekend. This is what we live for, not the work, but time between. There is an attitude of living weekend to weekend and enduring the interval. And there is very little dissent, very few people willing to question this consensus.

Why? Are we afraid of change, of disrupting our easy, comfortable existence? Maybe there’s more to be had from college. Perhaps we need to be asking more of the intellectual experience here and less of the comfortable one. Perhaps we should be trying to draw students by emphasizing our academic community rather than the facilities we have for students. And, in that vein, perhaps the contrast between the weight room at Middlebury and the one at Williams should be seen not so much as a poor comment on our use resources but rather as a critique of theirs.

I guess then the question that’s been running through my mind recently is whether this is all college is.

Is it just an enjoyable way to spend four years while we position ourselves to make six figures? Is all we’re doing here building our earning potential? Or, is it perhaps that we owe ourselves something greater and this is what we should be taking from Williams? For $30,000 a year, I think we should be asking for more then just great facilities and good times. I want to be a better man for having gone to Williams, not just one who had a lot of fun and can now make more money.

I do love Williams and have enjoyed my time here. But I love it enough to know that it could and should be more than it is right now. People see Williams as a wonderful place to go to school, and it is. But, there is something inherently troubling about that statement. As the Williams community, we owe it to ourselves to do something about that.