The recent controversy over the construction of a turf field near Poker Flats raises several contentious issues, but one in particular reflects a pervasive problem on campus that continues to grow worse: the violation of the traditional “division of the day” structure. In order to accommodate the various interests of Williams students, a system was devised that theoretically protected them from facing conflicts between academic, athletic and other extracurricular interests.

Classes receive priority until 4pm every day, and from that hour until 7pm, athletic pursuits on both varsity and lower levels are given primacy. The rest of the day was to be devoted to other interests such as student group meetings, performing arts and the multitude of other activities students are involved in. If this schedule is properly adhered to, a student could potentially excel in the classroom, play a sport and be involved in a range of other areas on campus without fear of overlapping meetings, classes or practices.

But over time, the lines between these divisions have become blurred. Student/faculty committees often meet at 4pm, sports teams are forced to practice in the morning or late evening, and meaningful lectures, like that of George Borjas, are scheduled in the late afternoon. Consequently, Williams students have been forced to choose between the three previously mentioned areas because of simple scheduling conflicts.

As a result of these overlapping divisions, athletes go vastly underrepresented on groups such as the CUL, CDC, CEP and College Council, all of which make important policy decisions that affect the entire campus. Similarly, there must exist an untold number of students that would like to participate on a varsity team but choose not to for fear of abandoning their prior commitments. Some might argue that athletes choose not to participate in other facets of campus life outside of the playing field, but how is a soccer player who has practice at 4pm supposed to make a CUL meeting that begins at the same time? How does a lacrosse player miss practice to attend the CC meeting at 7:30?

Much could be gained from having this large portion of campus take a more active role in those aforementioned bodies, but until facilities are expanded that allow for practices to fall in that traditional block and student/faculty committees agree to meet at more reasonable times, this simply cannot happen. If some change is not made to the current practice structure, athlete perspectives on the Williams experience will continue to be overlooked and minimized and students who would otherwise join certain teams will be discouraged from doing so.

The turf field proposal is an answer to the problem of forcing varsity teams to practice in the late evening and early morning because it would allow them to share facilities such as the field house, lower Cole, and the turf itself more easily. Thus, it can be assumed that the turf field would help to secure a more strict division of the day for varsity athletes. For this reason, the field must be constructed as soon as possible in order to prevent these athletes from sacrificing involvement in other equally meritorious activities.

Unfortunately, the current proposal for the turf field at Poker Flats does not address the problem of a blurred division of the day. Instead, it forces IM and club sports that wish to use the field, to workout late in the evening up until even midnight. Consequently, the problem of constrictive scheduling conflicts will only shift from varsity athletes to those who participate in IM and club sports, which could force a multitude of students to drop either their athletic pursuits or miss the meetings of many student groups.

Displacing IM and club sports through the construction of the turf field according to the current proposal leaves the campus in no better shape than that in which it currently exits. The nature of the proposed time-sharing regime inherently forces students to limit their extracurricular experience when Williams should foster opportunities for students to be involved in a array of activities if they so choose.

A compromise must be reached which allows the field to be built, but in doing so addresses student concerns about the consequences of said construction. Each side may have to make concessions, but no decision should be made until the competing interests have worked together to explore every possible option. Of course, challenges exist in creating an alternate proposal, but the preservation of the traditional structure of life at Williams College hinges on a compromise.

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