Monopoly, Wililams edition

The old maxim holds strong: Any time we rely on one organization to provide us with a good or service, the quality of that good or service will be inevitably inferior. This timeless statement applies even to situations where it makes sense to rely on one provider.

Take our college, for example. We rightly rely on it for many of our day-to-day necessities: a room, food, laundry machines (well, maybe once a semester) and safety – in effect granting it monopoly status. We justify allowing the College to hold Boardwalk and Park Place because otherwise we would be choosing between three different facilities departments to maintain our grounds or two security squads. Yet, because we are indeed relying on one organization for these necessities, no matter how well-meaning, we are made to jump through inefficient rings of fire to get what we need.

Administrators, who are not to be blamed for this, have no backflow of information. Firms have profits as a way for consumers to show their satisfaction or lack thereof. Administrators have no such thing and they are forced to dictate policy with their eyes blindfolded. As a result, the College implements many policies that unnecessarily complicate the fulfillment of our most banal – and therefore most important – needs.

A few examples:

In order to do laundry, you have to use quarters. No dimes, nickels or bills accepted. As you are reading this, think about your residence. Do you have $5 in quarters lying around?

You do, however, have the option of loading money onto your card via a machine. Be warned however: Before you go, flip a coin. If it lands on tails, the machine is broken. If it lands on heads, flip again until you get tails. The two machines that together serve the entire student body are both located in Paresky, which, while being at the center of campus, requires a decent walk and is essentially close to no one.
Speaking of money on cards, note that you can’t use that money towards meal points. That requires a different set of points called Ephpoints (duh!), which you can purchase at Droppers House (you know where that is, right?)

As a tour guide once explained to me, the College likes to foster a sense of community, so it doesn’t like students going off campus. Instead, they should remain on campus and enjoy the myriad activities available. Just don’t drink, have unregistered parties or wake the townsfolk with your loud hippity hoppity. Also, your bedtime is 2 a.m., the enforced end time for all official activities. Trivial Pursuit, anyone?

Some of these things are, admittedly, small change, if you will. For each thing that is even slightly annoying, the College does a hundred things right. But nevertheless, many of you have probably experienced these and other frustrating aspects of life here.

The College’s different bodies exist ostensibly to provide us with basic services to a reasonable degree, but they need us for feedback. Therefore, the responsibility falls with us to voice our dissatisfaction loudly.
So let’s begin. I think that first the machines should be placed at more locations around campus, if not in each house. Next, the distinction between Ephpoints and the other points should be eliminated. In the long run, the College should replace the laundry machines with ones that accept other coins. It should sponsor regular trips to the nearby cities and college towns and make the parking draw more efficient.

On this front I hope students will be more willing to step forward and offer suggestions to administrators, whose e-mail addresses are easily found on the school Web site. Together, we can improve student life here at Williams in the smallest, but often most important of ways.

Mo Zhu ’11 is from Belmont, Mass. He lives in Brooks.

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