“I’m fine, it’s all okay but damn / That was a vicious, hurtful slam / Last week’s wasn’t my best / But it’s tough to digest / That you all suspected it was spam,” wrote Eli Miller ’21, social calendar author, the week after his trademark email was flagged as “SUSPECTED SPAM.” Humorous engagement with the campus through a limerick format is typical of his weekly social calendar emails.
The most difficult part of the poem, Miller said, is to write is a conversational opening relatable to all students at the College. Much of the time, he begins with the stress of schoolwork. “The weather’s another clutch one,” he added.
Miller spends most of the writing process selecting events on events.williams.edu and writing or editing descriptions for them. He devotes only 20 to 30 minutes per week to the poem, but the occasional awkward meter or forced rhyme only adds to the charm.
“There’s inherent humor in talking about a basketball game in a stilted, antiquated medium,” Miller said.
However, according to Abbey Minondo ’19, former social calendar writer, the format of the calendar has changed quite a bit over the years. The poem and color-coded events have remained constant, but the emails once featured a question at the top and an answer at the bottom.
Past social calendar writers chose consistent themes for these questions, such as music, riddles or cows. “[The question and answer] was definitely the only avenue to put in your personality, whereas now it’s a little different,” Minondo said. Miller does not include a question and answer but puts plenty of personality into his poetry.
Although Miller calls the social calendar a “dream platform,” he is careful not to abuse his power. Even when plugging his orchestra concerts, he employs a self-deprecating sense of humor, a technique learned from his predecessor, Anna Nicholson ’20, in order not to seem presumptuous. Recognizing that orchestra concerts are not for everyone, he highlights a variety of events in order to appeal to a wide audience.
“I don’t think I have an ideology or an agenda,” Miller said. Although he hopes people will find his work useful, he does not see it as community service: It is fun, easy and exciting to him. “It’s all about me,” he joked. “It’s very selfish.”
Celebrity status is unavoidable for those in his position. Despite his modest guess that 30 percent of the student population reads the social calendar poem, (“Is that fair? Is that too high?” he asked.) he is a household name on campus, appearing in every student’s inbox each week whether or not they read his emails in full. He still finds it odd when people recognize his name, even though it happens frequently.
He enjoys the fame to an extent but feels there is a disconnect between his public persona and private life. There are assumptions, some valid and some not necessarily positive, that students often make about someone willing to do this job, Miller finds. Minondo enjoyed being well known around campus but said that people would tell her, “Abbey, I always thought you were a librarian or something.”
Miller imagined himself from the perspective of someone reading his emails: “OK, there’s this kid out there who goes to every single event on campus … has gone to every single math colloquium talk, every single frickin’ visiting author that’s been here… That’s his entire life, and it’s like a rock concert to him.” According to him, that person is not someone you would hate but not someone you would want to be friends with either.
However, Miller believes that his campy, goofy enthusiasm shines through. He is ambivalent toward his social calendar persona: “In certain situations, I’m like, ‘Yeah, it’s me. Ha ha,’” Miller said. “And in others, I’m like ‘Sorry, I have redeeming qualities, I swear.’”
Over time, it has become easier for him to create the social calendar, but the excitement has started to wear off.
“If you wanted to do an intense, English-style paper on all of my poems, you would see a lot of repeated rhymes and maybe even recycled lines,” Miller said. “There just aren’t that many ways you can tell people to go to a basketball game.”
He expressed excitement, therefore, to hand off the position to someone who can bring new ideas and enthusiasm to the calendar.
The search for a successor recently yielded Alex Pear ’22, who found herself nominated for the role by squash teammate Nicholson. Pear’s decision to take on the job put an end to a short but desperate recruitment campaign.
Pear was an obvious candidate for the position. “I like writing limericks, and I think Eli’s poems are funny,” she said.
She also noted the attractive compensation that comes with the role. “As far as campus jobs go, it’s a pretty good one,” she said.
When it comes to the content and format of the poems, Pear is not entirely sure what the future holds. “I see myself continuing in Eli’s tradition, at least for the first few [poems],” she said. “After that, I’d like to start taking the calendar in my own direction.”