There have been umpteen op-eds, letters to the editor, WSO discussions and general conversations about Williams students’ ability (or inability) to act in a courteous manner to their fellows, especially at social events. However, it has recently come to my attention that it is more than drunken belligerence and indifference making the social scene so lacking. Instead, it is the perverse pride that some students seem to take in consciously ruining something for others.
The culminating moment of my realization occurred this past Friday, as I attempted to enter my last first First Fridays. I was prepared to have a fun night with my friends as seniors celebrating the start to our last hurrah at Williams. Perhaps understandably, there were issues with the “new” venue (the old venue of Goodrich): fewer exits, the usually long line of uncooperative people and other typical party woes. Security kept requesting that people in line move back, only for more people to cut in from the side. Identifying the issue, I shouted to the host that a security officer should be posted on the other side of the line where the actual cutting was occurring, to encourage people to move back more willingly. The host proceeded to shout an obscenity at me. I am completely willing to admit I was not saintly in my response, but a quick gesture and return to my friends certainly didn’t seem excessive given the general behavior around me. A short time later, a security officer moved to the other side and the line actually started moving a little.
I realize an “eye for an eye” mentality doesn’t get anything done, but what about “an eye for constructive criticism?” After my (helpful) suggestion, I waited in line for at least twenty more minutes. As I finally reached the door, over an hour after getting in line, I was pulled out: the host didn’t want me going in since I had “given him attitude.” I requested to speak with the host, but he refused to talk to me. Security was sympathetic but said they had no authority over who should be let in, nor could they tell me who to contact in order to resolve the issue. I was not drunk; I was not belligerent; and I was not the one who escalated the situation, but I was the one punished for identifying a problem and attempting to help. It was also done in such a way that my time was wasted and I was separated from my friends. Not only was courtesy lacking, but the response was conscious, excessive and inappropriate.
There were frequent debates last year about whether writing something offensive on a poster was just drunken idiocy or a conscious choice. This year, WSO already has its first post about acting with common courtesy. The complaints are nearly identical to ones that have been raised countless times before. Can Williams really not take constructive criticism? It seems like it is one thing to have a professor write comments on your paper, but for some reason it’s not okay when someone makes a suggestion in real life. Even so, bringing the issue to attention often ends up being counterproductive. Will focusing attention on what may have started out as a poorly-thought-out antic result in similar actions being performed with the intention of causing a disturbance? Certainly students need to be held responsible for their behavior and trying to promote a cooperative environment should never be something to shy away from. Nevertheless, you can be certain I won’t be offering solutions to the First Fridays line problem anytime soon, simply because such input is obviously not appreciated.
Does constructive dialogue stop when classes end Friday afternoon? What is appealing about being so obviously callous to your own community? It would be nice if this year sees a reversal of the incidents that grew so prevalent last year, and if anyone has some constructive suggestions, I hope I’m not alone in supporting it. Perhaps such a community spirit will grow as the cluster system matures, or perhaps the Claiming Williams day will actually raise awareness where it is needed. Until that time, perhaps people will be willing to stop choosing to ignore their community and the individuals within it in favor of a temporary thrill from some misplaced sense of rebelliousness. Then maybe we can all get in to First Fridays the first try around.
Leah Shoer ’09 is a chemistry and classics major from Lancaster, Mass.