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.