I came to Williams with the impression that these four years were intended as an opportunity to more fully develop as a human being. However, I’ve become increasingly concerned that the College is not taking steps to aid us in that process. Yes, we are provided an unparalleled education. The administration, however, seems intent on forming policies that make it difficult to access healthy social outlets.
When I arrived on campus, I was surprised that it was not my classes that comprised the most significant part of my experience. In fact, the time I spent with people brought me more joy and taught me more than any class. I decided that I wanted people to be the central facet of my life at the College. The opportunities I value most provide space to come together with no agenda but to enjoy each other.
My concern started when I learned of the registration system for social events. I get it. The College, like so many institutions, is petrified by liability and wants to minimize responsibility for incidents by expanding its ability to monitor gatherings. But this year, in addition to requiring registration, the College has expanded its hosting policy. Social events over 50 people require certified host(s) to check student IDs at the door. Specific campus spaces that have “problematic histories” also require hosts. Hosts are paid $15 per hour. When throwing an event means potentially paying $90, there becomes a serious inequity in terms of who can create a party. Essentially, now only funded student groups can do so. It would be one thing if said groups provided consistent social outlets to the entire campus. However, that’s just not the case. There’s been a marked decline in such events over the past few years. I’ve reached out to most student groups responsible for hosting events in the hopes of rebooting them and have received little response.
I’ve heard the justification that no one attends these events, and I see the validity there. I don’t expect to see events overflowing with people. Anybody that has thrown an event, however, knows that people leave when they walk into a room and see five security guards and no students. We are monitored and policed in our daily lives. Many of us have internalized this policing and exist in a state of anxiety where any social action could have consequences and mistakes are not tolerated. We desperately need spaces where we can be ourselves and appreciate the best thing this college has provided us – each other – without fearing the consequences.
I acknowledge that I’m in a privileged position. I’m lucky enough to have parents who are willing and able to help support me emotionally and financially after college. I don’t feel as burdened by years of educational costs as many other students on campus. Plus, I’m not applying for graduate school and therefore don’t need to stress over my grades. I have more freedom to choose my priorities. I also need to clarify that this article is not a plea for more opportunities to get drunk and try to hook up with people. When only student groups can host all-campus events, and they are not providing said events, students are left with few options when they need an outlet. They can go to Hoxsey St., which seems to strictly provide opportunities to get drunk and hook up with people, or they can isolate themselves to find ways to escape.
We have some amazing chances to come together as a community. However, there is something special about an event like a dance party. So much of our time at the College is spent thinking. There are times when we need to give our brains a break and an opportunity to be goofy and not care so much.
I recognize that the administration creates policies with the aim to protect students and the College. However, it also needs to recognize that we go to a small school in a small town in the middle of nowhere. We all gave up the idea of a city (or even just larger town) life with its many other opportunities to get out, have fun and explore. Most students don’t have cars and can’t access the surrounding area. There is something special about this. While we are here, we have a concentrated experience of this place because we can’t escape it. However, having a concentrated experience can mean stress, anxiety and suffering if students don’t have access to healthy outlets. While we are here, we are working on being adults, and that means creating our own spaces to be free and express ourselves. I fully acknowledge that there are different ways of doing this. That being said, I really treasure the times we get to come together as a campus to dance, talk and be ridiculous, and the College is endangering that.
Justin Sardo ’18 is an anthropology major from Santa Monica, Calif.