Political surprises

When I first arrived at Williams earlier this year, I must admit I was quite disappointed to see the lack of political activism on campus. I mean, isn’t college the time for wild protests and political fanaticism? When I walked through the Purple Key Fair, it dawned on me that there wasn’t a College Democrats or College Republicans club (now there is a College Republicans club, and I urge you all to join it). That fact that those two clubs, which generally are staples of college life at other institutions, were nonexistent on campus was awfully distressing, especially given that this is an election year.

However, as the election approached, I was thrilled to see an awakening of the political consciousness at Williams. Students packed Paresky in order to watch the presidential debates. The closer it got to November 4th, the more politically-charged the atmosphere felt. Although the enthusiasm may have been slightly imbalanced, it was nevertheless a pleasure to witness. The excitement at Goodrich the night of the election was palpable as students were anxiously awaiting the latest exit polls. Patriotic streamers decorated the room, and best of all, there was free gelato.

When Senator McCain conceded, Williams College erupted in bliss. All night long there was shrieking and partying, and I’m pretty sure I even heard some fireworks go off. This was a complete reversal of my initial impression of Williams when the College did nothing to commemorate Sept. 11.

However, the question that remained was whether the election was the culmination to the political fervor or just the beginning. Although it’s too soon to tell, the College is clearly taking big strides in the right direction. On Monday, nine members of the Congressional Black Caucus spoke at Chapin Hall in a televised event hosted by Lesley Stahl. I believe that this is definitely a turning point for Williams in terms of political involvement.

Bringing in these esteemed politicians will have an inspiring and transcending effect on campus and will hopefully continue the wave of activism that the election started.
Never before at Williams has there been a gathering of so many influential members of Congress. It truly was a momentous occasion for our college. For whatever reason, unlike some of our peer institutions, Williams has never really prided itself or been viewed as a particularly politically active campus, but the publicity that the event brought should augment Williams’ political reputation.

There is often talk on campus about the reality of the Purple Bubble, where it is the trend to forget about the problems in the world beyond the oasis that is Williams College. This is a problem that many colleges face and it has to be combated. A fear of mine before going to college was that I would get so wrapped up with what is going on at campus that when I leave after four years I would be lost in the real world beyond the Purple Bubble. I worried that I would be ignorant of the world beyond the classroom. But now with these new initiatives of the College, my fears are definitely assuaged.

Youth is the hour for idealism, and there is no better place than a college campus to throw around and cultivate new ideas. A college that fosters political discourse gains intellectual prowess and benefits the entire student body. Now, at Williams, not only is the administration making efforts to ignite a political passion in its students (by bringing in the black caucus, Jane Swift and others), but the student body through some of its clubs is also picking up the slack. Finally, this is a change we all can support. Williams is moving in the right direction, and the student body as well as the faculty and administration deserve credit for this achievement.

Raphael Menko ’12 is from Philadelphia, Pa. He lives in Armstrong.

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