I would like to thank Susan Engel and the organizations responsible for bringing Tom Friedman to campus last week. In light of recent Record editorials decrying student apathy, the Friedman lecture popped the proverbial purple bubble which insulates Williams students and can promote political apathy. Such lectures bring the Williamstown community together and also further the intellectual atmosphere of the Purple Valley.
While inviting community members to College events certainly improves town-gown relations, their presence should not be to the detriment of students. If you looked across the crowd Thursday evening, the audience more closely resembled a retirement home than a youthful college town. Many of the students who did attend were packed into standing-room-only areas in the balcony. Fortunately, Friedman was very accommodating to the large crowd and allowed students to sit on stage, but future lecturers might not be as easy-going. Indicative of the problem, the first five questions from the audience were from Williamstown residents – finally prompting Friedman to request that a student be given the microphone.
I do not think it is realistic to ask students to arrive at lectures half an hour early just to get a seat on the main floor. I urge future event organizers to implement a plan similar to that used for the Madeline Albright lecture last spring: issue free tickets to students and faculty in Baxter before opening up the event to the outside community. While community relations are important, we must not forget the mission of our college â€“ the education of students.
Mayo Shattuck ’03