Letter: Generation quiet

The general temperament of the student body on Williams’ campus is not an activist one, and there is plenty of room for improvement in terms of student awareness of current events beyond the Berkshires and the demands of academics, activities, sports and general college life. No, we are not the 60s activist revolutionary culture of Thomas Friedman’s generation; yes, we are angry and dissatisfied with war, politics and societal ills. We definitely speak in quieter tones instead of yelling – our tools are words instead of actions. Therefore unlike the op-ed “Altering the course of Generation Q” written by Julia Kropp and Lindsay Moore last week, the “Quiet” label that Friedman has identified us with is a fair term that I am willing to accept, though not embrace.

To say that the College “gives us so much,” however, is to avoid taking into full account how much we are investing in Williams. This is a short, critical four-year period in our lives, an opportunity most of us are taking full advantage of. This leads to a predominantly self-centered and self-focused lifestyle. But does this also mean that Williams students are completely oblivious to the outside world? I would disagree. While time on campus is generally spent immersed in our own personal worlds, the plethora of summer programs, Winter Study trips and Spring Break opportunities in community and public services indicates that students are not squandering their free time.

Our on-campus apathy, in a large part, has to do with our location. The prototypical Williams student did not choose to go to a school in the middle of rural Massachusetts because they desired to “[take] an active role in . . . confronting the problems and challenges affecting the nation.” Such individuals would have looked at college campuses known for more activist reputations: Wesleyan, UC-Berkeley, Georgetown or more cosmopolitan campuses closer to the outside community and the “real world.”

Besides, is the Williams campus the “real world?” My response is no, and the College isn’t trying to be. Yes, Williams students are focused and goal-oriented. There are already community service and environmental organizations in existence on campus, run and serviced by passionate and concerned students. But creating a public service office, as Kropp and Moore suggested, is not going to magically convert the rest. It is incorrect to assume the issue boils down to students possessing a desire to act on their social, political, or environmental concerns, and simply lack a properly organized venue through which to act out.

The truth is, for the Williams student, if the will or desire is there, they have the capacity to act on it and find that venue themselves through the already existing organizations on campus. The real issue is that this campus does not attract a majority of students with that desire, whereas other colleges do. If you want demonstrations, you are looking in the wrong place.

Jenny Campbell ’08