A letter from the editor: Why town and gown matter

Nicholas Goldrosen

I remember, when I first found out about Williams College, wondering whether the town was named after the College or the College after the town; I later found out that Ephraim Williams, in a display of extraordinary humility, dictated that both the College and the town be named after him. Truly, neither the chicken nor the egg came first.

Rather than a swipe at Colonel Ephraim, though, my point of this anecdote is that Williamstown and Williams College are and have been inextricably tied together. It is for this reason that we chose to focus our final issue of the Record this semester on “town and gown” — the intersections of the town and the College. As I reflect now, with only a semester left to go and in the spirit of belatedly giving thanks, I am incredibly grateful for the Williamstown and greater Berkshire community I’ve been able to join for these years. Whether in local houses of worship, at Williamstown Elementary or Mount Greylock High School, or in local courts and prisons, among many places, I and many other students deeply value the communities we’ve found ourselves a part of beyond the College.

The central question of this issue, in some sense, is, what do neighbors owe each other? This question occurs at the individual level — Hoxsey Street, local government and schools, for example, are all points of intersection between neighbors we examine in this issue. This question also takes shape at a larger, institutional level between College and town. What, for example, do the College and town owe to those residents who may find it increasingly unaffordable to live in Williamstown or the Berkshires more broadly? What duty does the College owe, with its vast resources, to the communities that surround it? Finally, this question also applies to neighbors long- displaced. What do we owe to the Native peoples removed from their ancestral lands?

I’m not particularly certain that we reach any clear answers in these pages, but I hope we’ve taken some basic steps toward seeing the neighbors around us, outside the Purple Bubble we can so easily retreat into. Whether these neighbors are seniors at the Council on Aging’s exercise classes, incarcerated students at the Berkshire County House of Correction, or local artisans at a pop-up shop on Spring Street, we hope this issue has given students a better understanding of the vibrant community we live in. We also hope it inspires a sense of involvement amongst students — to be tuned into local government, to express care and concern for their neighbors, or to involve themselves in community engagement.

I’ll end with some words from one famous neighbor, Mr. Rogers. “If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” This fundamental importance of each person is something that journalism, when it’s at its best, captures; I hope that we in some small measure have done that, both in this issue and throughout this semester.

All my best,

Nicholas Goldrosen