On April 22, 2020, I wrote an opinion piece for the Record about the fear and ultimate resilience that defined my family’s relationship when my mom was infected with the coronavirus. At the time, the article felt like the right outlet to express my emotions, which, as I’m sure my family can attest to, tend to stay bottled up inside until they invariably explode into some medium of expression. In that article, I used the refrains “Before I wore a mask” or “After wearing a mask” to introduce each new paragraph. Funnily enough, in the year since that article was released, I’m so used to wearing a mask that I find it almost impossible to imagine a time when I wasn’t greeting the top half of a friend’s face on the Paresky line. At the end of the article, I stressed that while it would be difficult to say goodbye to our friends and extended family, the best way we could get through the pandemic was by being together, alone.
In the year since that op-ed was published by the Record, I think it’s obvious to most of us how difficult it would be to articulate in a 700 word op-ed just how much has changed in Williamstown, the United States, and the world as a whole. Communities small and large have faced previously unimaginable challenges that forced the relationships within them to adapt. Our community, for example, saw uncertainty as students and faculty had to leave campus last spring and then again when they cautiously returned in the fall. Many of us, but most importantly the people who permanently call the Berkshires home, were unsure of what would result from this grand experiment, both the positives and negatives of which have since been documented in newspapers throughout the country.
Maybe it’s because I haven’t taken a lab class, but I don’t know if there’s an objective way to determine whether or not our experiment was a success. On the one hand, I have had the privilege of taking classes in person as some of my friends at colleges across the country continue to struggle with remote classes far away from the campuses they hoped to call home. On the other hand, I’ve also witnessed the frustrations and stress that result from a campus of students and faculty challenged to adapt to a new status quo in a matter of months.
When I wrote a year ago, I pleaded for us as a Williams community to be together, alone. Now, as my parents have become fully vaccinated and I myself look forward to receiving my second dose in a week, my plea can be adjusted somewhat. As we remain vigilant to stop a spread, it may be time to come together to reexamine our relationships with each other. The pandemic exposed relationships that faced tension even before “Zooming in” became a verb to describe how one attends class. These relationships may be strictly on campus or extend far beyond it. Yet, regardless of how we define these relationships, we are all at the same time responsible for the fostering of a single Williams community.
Perhaps, then, instead of being together, alone, it is time to think of ways we could come together, as one. Let us take our experiences from this experiment, our successes and failures, and carry them proudly into our planned full return to campus this fall. Besides being together at Williams, togetherness no longer needs to solely represent the physical. Togetherness today may look like increased virtual engagement with accomplished academics across the country, offering further opportunities to students to learn and develop themselves in the liberal arts tradition. It may look like additional discussions on campus about the lasting effects of the pandemic on communities near and far, and continuing to offer resources to students that were affected by the pandemic, standing by them long after we reach full vaccination. It may look like renewed support for varsity athletics and competitive clubs as they begin traveling across the region. At the same time, it could be a further emphasis on breaking down barriers between social groups, bridging the gap between the relationships we form in the classroom and in the common room. No matter what togetherness may look like, as long as it makes Williams a place where everyone feels welcome, our community will be prepared for whatever challenge may come next.
Nico Cavalluzzi ’23 is from Scarsdale, N.Y.