I don’t like to complain but… What are all these consultants doing in Lee’s?

Harry Albert

I don’t like complaining (I love it), but there’s a lot that I think could use improvement at this college.  In this column, I plan to break down the problems at the College that annoy me most.

It’s 1 p.m. on a Thursday, I just got out of a one-hour class that felt like it took three, and Whitmans’ has a line that reaches the door. I just want to eat my lunch in Lee Snack Bar in peace. I walk in praying that I’ll be able to find a seat when, lo and behold, three booths and two tables are taken up by Bain & Company. Four cheery twenty-somethings are sitting with 30 college kids in suits while the rest of the Lee’s population is sitting around in athleisure. It’s an odd picture. While I’m sitting eating lunch and staring at these groups, I’m left with the question: Why do these consulting and finance companies set up in what is clearly a student space?

Lee’s is not the ’68 Center for Career Exploration. It is not an academic building, and it is not even a building like Sawyer Library, which is mainly oriented toward academics. At its core, Lee’s is a place to eat and hang out with friends. Meetings with consulting and finance companies are, by definition, job-oriented. The tension between such different spheres of life leads to an uncomfortable environment, at least for me. It’s weird seeing a classmate basically being interviewed for a job in the same place where I talked to them at 2 a.m. after a night out. I’m sure it’s not comfortable for those students at the interview table either. It seems like a nightmare to talk to someone who you are hoping to get a job from in front of a crowd of your fellow classmates. So why do these companies consistently set up shop in Lee’s?

I don’t have a good answer to this question. I have no idea why the Career Center doesn’t reserve a few empty classrooms or rooms in Sawyer for these companies. I highly doubt that these options are not available. The spaces I just listed are quieter, cleaner, and more private than Lee’s. Are these not all positive attributes for what amounts to a combination information session/job interview?

I have to assume the answer is no. The only reasonable answer I can come up with is that these companies do not want their sessions to be private (I can’t imagine that the companies would not prefer the sessions take place in a clean, quiet environment). The public visibility of these “private” sessions must be appealing to these companies. This makes sense from their perspective. 

Imagine you are a first year at the College with very little idea of what you want to do after graduation. You have spent the preceding years of your life striving to attend an elite higher education institution. Now that you have arrived, the years post-college are suddenly scarily unclear. With questions about the future swirling around in your head, you walk into Lee’s and see many of your classmates talking to a consulting or finance representative. Here is a high-paying, prestigious career laid out right in front of you — and you’re behind! Everybody else is already meeting with representatives from these companies in a very public setting. You had better do the same or else you will be left in the dust. 

This scenario is not hard to empathize with, as it is one that many of us at the College have found ourselves in. These public meetings create an aura of prestige and a feeling of getting left behind for those students who are not participating in these “Coffee Chats,” and yet, must sit mere feet away while we eat our lunch. Personally, I am interested in a career in software engineering and am not at all planning on going into consulting or finance. Despite this, I have caught myself thinking that I should sign up for one of these Lee’s meetings so that I don’t miss out. These companies create a very strong sense of exclusivity by forming such a sharp contrast between themselves, wearing suits and looking professional, and everyone else in Lee’s, wearing normal clothes and eating lunch. It is hard not to feel like you are behind simply by virtue of being around them, and that seems to be the point.

So what’s the solution? Stop having meetings in Lee’s! This school already exudes the illusion that consulting and finance are the only two viable career options after Williams. We don’t need to heighten this feeling by having public consulting and finance meetings in the middle of student spaces. No other industries seem to have this problem. I have thankfully never seen a tech or law representative posted up at a Lee’s booth. Many of us are already fighting implicit pressures that tell us to go into consulting or finance — these pressures should not infringe on our social time.

Harry Albert ’25 is a computer science and philosophy major from Pittsfield, Mass.