On Claiming Williams Day last Thursday, Associate Professor of History Leslie Brown moderated an event in which students used electronic clickers to answer questions anonymously. The event, sponsored by both Brown’s History 201 class and the athletics department, included topics such as political candidate preference, campus involvement and beef reduction.
The event began with questions about the current U.S. Congress and its perceived effectiveness. A majority of students said they did not believe Congress could solve the nation’s problems, and further questions showed an overall lack of faith in the current system. However, a majority of students said they would not considering running for office later in life.
Brown then opened the room to discussion, pointing to the inconsistency between students’ feelings about the government and their unwillingness to take a step in improving it by running for office. Several students responded with comments suggesting other ways to get involved in politics, such as on the state or county level, that do not require heavy political involvement. One student pointed out the high costs associated with campaigning and the resulting difficulty in running if one is not capable of financing a campaign. Brown emphasized that laws all begin in Congress and urged students to consider this when deciding whether or not to run for office.
The event continued with questions about peer intervention on campus, including situations in which a student sees a peer in a potentially harmful situation. Most students agreed that they would intervene in such a situation, but a lower number reported regularly intervening in such situations. A majority of students subsequently said that they would want someone else to intervene if they were victims in a potentially harmful situation.
Students then discussed the difficulty of determining what they would do in a given situation. Some students believed they could not answer yes as they do not regularly find themselves in dangerous situations that require intervention. Brown encouraged students to understand the meaning of the clicker responses and feel compelled to create a more supportive environment.
The final questions asked about historic campus organizations and their perceived exclusivity on campus. Answers were mixed; some students said their respective organizations were too exclusive, and some said that the culture and traditions of their organizations contributed to their exclusivity and social pressure.
One student pointed out that the questions asked for this particular section were too ambiguous, since various organizations such as sports teams, a cappella groups or the Queer Student Union are not directly comparable. As the student noted, one could apply these questions to sports; if a team pushed its members to finish a particularly intense workout, team members would complete the task even if they did not want to do so. Such a situation would be incomparable to one in which, for example, an organization engaged in hazing and asking its recruits to participate in unpleasant activities.
The event concluded with a brief statement from Brown. She thanked the audience for their participation, and she urged listeners to consider the points raised during the presentation and how each applies to the College and members of the community.