At Williams, we pride ourselves in being a community of compassionate individuals committed to the needs of our fellow community members. In our time of need last week, we reached out to each other, offering solace in the form of a hug, a receptive ear or a comforting comment. This informal support structure, a constant in the Purple Valley, was invaluable in our collective coping process.
However, difficult times like these help to show us more completely the value of a formal system of support. We are blessed with a caring and well-established network of administrators, faculty, staff and students, but in our day-to-day lives, most of us students are not fully conscious of either this network’s omnipresence or its resilience. The responses from all segments of the community last week helped give a more public face to the normally behind-the-scenes network of organized student support, reaffirming our unity and offering students assistance they may have never before considered.
In the days following the attacks, the deans, chaplains and health center set up highly-visible counseling centers across campus, advertising the services that grief counselors could offer students. Security passed through dorms to check on student safety, chaplains met with students and organized a multi-faith prayer service and professors reached out to students in consolation. Different offices came together to ensure the safety of Arab and Muslim students.
The College also provided venues through which students could positively channel their feelings of despair and anger by organizing public expressions of sympathy and solidarity, venues which were open to all Williamstown residents, students and townspeople alike.
Through these efforts, the College community drew upon a full range of services that are always available to students but are either rarely acknowledged or not fully realized. Prior conceptions of administrators’ roles were redefined – the deans and Security became student allies rather than adversaries. The stigmatized nature of counseling services faded away as students sought outlets for their emotions. In short, in the wake of the tragedies, the public expression of these outpourings of love reawakened students, as well as administrators, faculty and staff, to the capacity of members of our community to help each other.
It is unfortunate that these terrible events were what showed many of us just how vital and present these services are, but we hope that in the future Williams’ more formal support networks will continue to be considered by students as viable options.
As America and the world faced a dauntingly cruel tragedy – and many of us suffered personal loss – we learned this week how lucky we are to have a wealth of options for student support, both formal and informal. The expressions of caring and generosity help remind us that Williams is not just a place where we go to school, nor is it merely a bucolic New England village where we can escape the real world for four years. More than just the place where we live, Williams is our home, providing shelter, comfort and help when we need it most.
We at the Record would like to thank all on this campus who have helped the community cope with the events of last week. The organization of vigils, forums and services, the tributes to those who lost their lives, and the service work that was quickly arranged show not only the depth of feeling on this campus, but also our ability to begin the recovery process from events as horrific as last Tuesday’s attacks. In a week when the entire nation suffered, our community pulled together with amazing resolve, once again demonstrating the close-knit and supportive environment that makes this home so special.