West residents speak about the sweet sound of silence

Entering on Friday afternoon into the common room of West College, the notorious new campus quiet housing, I was convinced I was in the wrong place. There were people. Not just any people … social people conversing in what I wrongly assumed would be the quietest spot at the College at any given time. As I waited for my first interviewee to arrive, I was worried that any slight noise I made could result in a fine from the West Baxter Fellow, or at least a complaint to Security.

Laura Calloway ’13 quickly came into the common room and my immediate fears were set aside. As I began to whisper, West residents began to laugh. Calloway informed me that in fact they don’t all have to remain silent while in the confines of the building. “No, we don’t need to be always quiet. Absolutely not,” she said.

The Neighborhood Review Committee recommended quiet housing in West College this spring. So far, the first generation of residents seems incredibly pleased with its development. As far as the quiet rules go, residents must remain quiet from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. every day and be respectful of other students’ need for silence.

In part due to the rules, West has become a smaller, tight-knit community within the purple bubble. Stephen Webster ’11 believes that “a nice thing about quiet housing is that you have something in common with the people you live with because we all decided to live in quiet housing.”

Christina Knapp ’13 also lives in West and embraces its more tranquil weekend culture. “During the day it’s just like any other dorm on campus,” she said. “The main difference is on weekends because last year I couldn’t get to bed until after 2 a.m.”

Most students agreed the worst part of quiet housing was the lack of common space.  Calloway noted that outside the one common room in the building, “You don’t see people around as much. They kind of just keep to themselves. Sometimes I wish people were just doing something fun, like Twister or Apples to Apples or something random. Random things happened to me in my entry all the time last year and I miss that.”

By and large, past negative experiences in loud entries or dorms were the main factor driving students to choose West. “Truthfully, if quiet housing had been in Tyler Annex, I still would have done it,” Alyssa Barlis ’13 said. Webster and Knapp agreed with Barlis’ sentiment. Quiet housing, for them, was a necessary refuge to enhance their Williams experience. Past shenanigans involving noisy neighbors led to sleep deprivation and, in some circumstances, damaged students’ course work.

While the noise issue was paramount to their decision, there seems to be some silence wiggle room for some residents. “Last night I ended up watching ‘Drunk History’ videos with my roommate until 1:00 a.m. and we were probably a little too loud,” Calloway said. I asked, “Shouldn’t you be written up for that?” She frankly replied, “Yeah, well I’m the Baxter Fellow.” So it appears West is not always as silent as it should theoretically be … but hey, who can really blame a bunch of college kids for wanting to watch YouTube at 1:00 a.m. as opposed to writing a paper? Certainly not I …

Also, West’s location is a positive benefit not to be overlooked. “I think it’s also pretty cool that the College started here, in this building,” Omer Khalayleh ’13 said, referencing the fact that West College was the first and only building of the College during its early years.

Barlis argues that West is a “prime location,” nestled in the middle of Science Quad and across the street from Paresky. As a “remotely sciency person,” Barlis loves that “You can leave West at 8:28 a.m. and get to class by 8:30 a.m.” Even Khalayleh, who has no intention of majoring in Division III, has taken a liking to Schow since moving into West because of its proximity.

Being located right in the middle of campus has one agreed-upon downside though: hearing the mass exodus of potentially intoxicated students meandering home on weekends around 2:00 a.m. According to residents, some other students make particular note when they walk by West. “‘Guys be really quiet, it’s quiet housing!’ Yeah, that joke apparently didn’t get old as fast for them as it did for us,” Webster said.

Khalayleh lives on the first floor of West and has heard students enter into quiet housing late at night to prove a point by making noise. Most residents don’t seem too bothered by it though, given how minimal the noise is in comparison to past living situations. Khalayleh finds it “funny” that students try to disrupt the generally calm atmosphere in West. While these students are quite content with being quiet during designated hours, talking about their passion for West is an easy way to break the silence.

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