Roasting boundaries

If you have more than 10 Facebook friends, you’ve probably noticed that Pig Roast was held last weekend: a largely drunken spectacle of college students dressed in questionable Americana gear and bro tanks coalescing on Meadow Street. I know there’s a lot wrong with Pig Roast; its quasi-fratty nature is justifiably repulsive to some, but I would argue that rather than a blemish on the name of our upstanding liberal arts institution, Pig Roast should be celebrated as the quintessentially Williams holiday that it is.

Last Saturday, Williams students did something that they rarely do on campus. They partied with people that they hadn’t met through class or through their extracurricular activities or through their sports teams. They stepped away from their books, despite the stench of looming finals, and stepped toward one another. Upon arriving at the scene in Meadow – skirting the less sober individuals, as it were – I was impressed by just how different everyone there was. Pig Roast is the one event of the year where you can find former entrymates, your team captains, the really smart kid who sits in the front row of your biology class and your math TA all kicking it. It’s a party, and literally everyone on campus is invited.

Our campus seems to think that community is formed in forums or structured events that critically engage us in building bridges between one another. We try intentionally and forcefully to make people get to know one another, to ask questions, to be uncomfortable. For those who attend these events, there’s certainly a redeeming message, an opportunity to engage. But inherently the people who attend these events are self-selecting. The forums that you go to are populated by students who care about these issues, who are already curious.

That doesn’t happen at Meadow. There’s something beautiful about breaking down Meadow – which I wouldn’t normally characterize as necessarily the warmest and most inviting place on campus – and making it a place that’s open to everyone, regardless of their social status. Pig Roast is a way to make friends, to stop making assumptions about the people we see every day, get in line next to the cooler with them or maybe laugh at the idiot who’s brave enough to play with the roasted pig head, and find common ground. We spend so much time at Williams being ridiculously awkward, pressing buttons on our phones when we walk past the girl who sits next to us at class or averting eye contact when we’re pretty sure we saw someone we made out with that one time. It’s refreshing to let that go at Pig Roast. It’s refreshing to step back and realize that regardless of whether the person you’re chatting up was your TA or your frosh, you’re spending time getting to know someone.

“Getting to know someone” is kind of the whole point of this place. I’ve learned a lot of really valuable things in the classroom while I’ve been here. I’ve learned a lot of really valuable things in extracurriculars while I’ve been here. But for me, part of being a Williams student has been learning to be a good person, learning to be someone that others want to get to know. That doesn’t happen by locking yourself in Sawyer until you will yourself to be Phi Beta Kappa. That doesn’t happen by locking yourself in your suite and talking to the same five people every night of the week. It happens by letting yourself discover that the guy in the backwards hat and man flip-flops has something in common with you – that he also hates those ridiculous sweaters Professor So-and-so wears or that he used to watch Arthur on PBS Kids every day, too.

When we close ourselves off to the idea of a day party and assume that the attendees won’t be “our” kind of people, we close ourselves off to the purpose of this place. We let ourselves fester in our comfort zones and make assumptions about others. We refuse to engage those who differ from us and miss out on the ways we’re both similar and different. You (hopefully) wouldn’t take four English classes in a semester, so why would you hang out with the same four friends every weekend?

I’m not oblivious to the fact that Pig Roast isn’t going to be everyone’s scene, especially because it was emphatically not my scene freshman year. I would, however, encourage everyone to find their Pig Roast. I would encourage us to find something that makes us leave our comfort zone and talk to the people around us – not just the people around our dinner table, but the people we pass every day on our way to class. I’m not naïve enough to think the planners of Pig Roast are setting out to enrich our sense of community, but something good happens when we stop consciously trying to create our social scene and let the innate social animal take over. Maybe it’s the nostalgia kicking in, but we’ll never have such opportunity to talk to these incredible people again, to find common ground with someone that you would otherwise not approach. There are certainly less booze-ridden ways to do this than Pig Roast, but finding our way out of our comfort zones and into the lives of new friends doesn’t strike me as a bad thing.

Nicole Smith ’14 is a political science major from Midland, Mich. She lives in Prospect.

  • Adam

    “It’s a party, and literally everyone on campus is invited.”
    “There’s something beautiful about breaking down Meadow – which I wouldn’t normally characterize as necessarily the warmest and most inviting place on campus – and making it a place that’s open to everyone, regardless of their social status.”

    Nicole, this is nonsense. Quite a few Williams students don’t feel like they’ve been invited to Pig Roast. Even if there isn’t a bouncer at the door turning people away, Pig Roast is an event geared mainly towards rich white men getting embarrassingly drunk with their friends, and suggesting that everyone on campus should feel welcome is just wilful ignorance.

    If you’re back on campus during a subsequent Pig Roast, please take a look around you and do a quick demographic survey of the people around you before making any assessments about how “open” the event is.

    • John

      Adam –
      I completely agree! The guy who started the Rig Poast (son of two school teachers) who is now helping throw them in NYC and beyond to benefit marginalized and at-risk women in the Middle East was definitely only concerned with getting rich white men embarrassingly drunk. It is definitely not in your head in any way! The founders were totally just using reverse psychology when they tabled for weeks to try to get anyone and everyone to come. And its total poppycock when they talk about how cool it was the first year when half the people that came they didn’t know. Down with whitie!

      John

    • Nick

      A few things:

      1. If you had gone to Pig Roast, you would have realized that, as Nicole explained, the crowd there was diverse.

      2. The organizers go out of their way to include people and are proud of the fact that Pig Roast is an event that attracts a wide range of people. They sell the tickets for the event in Paresky, they set the ticket prices at level that hardly comes close to covering their costs, and they don’t turn anyone away either for not paying or otherwise. At the end of the day, they take on the risk of dealing with the police and allow people to more or less trash their house because they want to create a space where people can come together. Like anyone else, they are happy when people show up to an event that they put a lot of effort into creating. If you’d rather spend your Saturday doing something else, that’s entirely your right, but don’t blame the hosts for your absence at Pig Roast.

      3. It seems to me that there is nothing wrong with wearing tank tops and drinking a few beers with your friends. Jumping to conclusions about people because of the clothes they wear or the sport they play seems completely antithetical to the idea of inclusion that you seem to be arguing for. As Nicole discusses, Williams is meant to challenge you and force you outside of your comfort zone – there will always be some awkwardness in encountering difference, but that awkwardness allows growth and enables the community to grow stronger. Stretching yourself may mean going to an all-campus forum on an uncomfortable topic, but it may also mean giving those “rich white men” a chance. It may mean not turning your nose up at a gathering just because some people are choosing to drink at it. Who knows, like Nicole, you might find that you actually have a good time.

    • Pig Roast

      As one of the people that ran the roast this year, I can assure you that everyone is welcome. The goal is to get as many people on campus to come as we can. If you are too much of a loser to shake the “rich white kids are out to get me” mindset, then that’s on you.

  • #assclownADAM

    Adam, the demographic you would see when looking at pig roast would most likely be mostly people looking to get outside of college work for a day so they could relax, socialize, and most likely get drunk forget about the fact that they have an absurd amount of work today. It’s a place where college kids can be college kids for once at Williams. I’m sorry if you went to Pig Roast and someone ruined your day. At least I hope you went, to make the statement of it being just for “rich white kids” is a generalization worthy of the most close minded republican conservative. The vein of ignorance you have just shown rivals that of someone who is foolish enough to say women shouldn’t be in charge of their own bodies, or the belief that all black men are in gangs. Ignorance and sweeping generalizations are wrong regardless of who is making or who is the target. And Pig Roasters are not just “rich white kids”. Are there some there, yes, of course, because that demographic is anywhere from 25%-50% of the fucking school.
    I personally wish everyone had the same mindset as Nicole. I will agree that it’s a heavily romanticized view, but if more people felt as she did then maybe Pig Roast could actually become something that does actually break down social barriers and brings the Williams community together.

  • simon

    There are many students at Williams who cannot afford to come here and not make the most of their education. The idea that any important aspects of Williams can or should be found between a plate of pork and a solo cup ignores the reality that less affluent students need to develop real skills while they are here – developing social connections will not be enough to help them when the music stops. My parents are not “paying for the party” (there’s a good Douthat column from last week on this).

  • Chris Shoftenhouzen

    Adam,
    I take it I won’t be seeing you at Sensation this Saturday? And don’t trust the people inviting you, I’m sure it’s reverse psychology. They’re definitely inviting you so that you won’t show up. I pity you that you feel that way. You’re a sicko.

  • Williams Student

    Why does it seem like every issue of the Record has an op-ed by Nicole Smith?

  • Williams Student

    This is actually the most nonsensical thing I’ve ever read–is this satire?

  • Student

    Wait, she’s actually serious?