Wagner declares ‘Siberian’ Mountain Day in response to weather concerns

This past Friday, students enjoyed a day off from classes to climb Stone Hill as part of “Siberian” Mountain Day, a revised form of Mountain Day devised in a joint effort between Interim President Bill Wagner and the Williams Outing Club (WOC). While the day proved sunny with temperatures hovering in the 50s, it had not seemed likely in the preceding days that this would be the case.

The deviation from normal Mountain Day programming, which includes a variety of hikes that converge on Stoney Ledge, was formulated in response to weather forecasts that almost unanimously predicted precipitation and freezing temperatures for this past Friday. As Mountain Day can only fall on one of the first three Fridays of October, last week was the last potential opportunity for it to occur. Otherwise, students would have been given the last Friday of the semester as an extra day of Reading Period.

Wagner said that he was in discussion with WOC Director Scott Lewis all week about various potential courses of action and contingency plans regarding last Friday. A conversation took place on Thursday morning in which both he and Lewis expressed concern that poor weather conditions might make hiking conditions on Stoney Ledge unsafe. “We talked about possible alternative events and hikes, but at that point we were leaning toward not having Mountain Day this year,” Wagner said.

However, later in the day, Lizzy Brickley ’10 and Mike Tcheyan ’10, College Council co-presidents, met with Wagner to discuss alternatives to outright cancellation. “We were quite distressed by the thought of a year without a Mountain Day,” Brickley said. According to Wagner, this meeting gave him cause to change his mind and decide to proceed with Mountain Day in a modified form. “Given the weather we were expecting, though, I asked Scott [Lewis] to work with WOC to plan alternative events and a hike suitable for Siberian conditions,” he said. “The concept of Siberian Mountain was born, and Scott and WOC really entered into the spirit of the idea.”

“[I was] thrilled when the administration listened to student opinion and changed their stance to protect this cherished Williams tradition,” Brickley said. The Siberian theme of the day’s programming, which stemmed from Wagner’s academic specialty of Russian history, included a Russian film marathon, a “Da” (as opposed to “Wah”) tournament, and a hike up and gathering on top of Stone Hill, behind the Clark, at which hundreds of students listened to a cappella performances and consumed hot cider and donuts.

“We tried to include as many events as possible and put together a schedule that would work in the freezing rain,” said Ali DeMarchis ’10, WOC president.

Lewis emphasized the importance of having Mountain Day, even in its revised form. “Mountain Day is a very unique and important part of our calendar,” he said. “It not only celebrates our commitment to traditions past, but our strong commitment to the value we place on community and appreciation of our good fortune to have a campus situated in such a beautiful and inspiring landscape.”

In a break from tradition, Wagner announced Mountain Day via e-mail on Thursday afternoon, as opposed to the usual early Friday morning announcement. In the e-mail, he emphasized the special significance of Mountain Day this year, given that it is due for review by the Calendar and Schedule Committee.

“Siberian Mountain Day was a great success,” Wagner said. “Given how wonderful the weather was and how great the day turned out to be, had we not gone ahead there might well have been a ‘Russian Revolution Day,’ and I would be writing now from Siberian exile.”

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