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The Deep Breath Before the Plunge

I'm 5/8th through with Williams. How strange.

Thus far, I've taken 21 classes in 16 departments, sat on seven college committees, participated in far too many clubs, and generally filled each day with meetings, meals, and stuff. Yet, at the end of it all, I'm frankly unsure what I've learned in these 2.something years. Unlike primary and secondary school, I can't point to a specific list of skills or definitions that comprised my education.

Instead, I've learned via experience. Whether in reading a gigantic stack of books, staying up late working an essay, or starwatching in the Science Quad with a dear friend, I've taken in new knowledge and ways of understanding the world. Williams and the people within the Purple Bubble have taught me about the joy of service, the pain of loss, and the depth of experience that each person brings to the table. Just as no one else here spent a month volunteering in a French religious community this summer, I certainly have very little idea of the practice, sweat, and toil that all of my peer athletes have poured into their sports.

Yes, we do support each other - I've gone to plenty of games, plays, and performances - but watching a monologue shows me nothing of the hours that went into memorization of the lines, unless I have some prior familiarity. I know nothing of the countless passing drills that our soccer teams have doubtless run, or the endless repetitions taken by NBC and Dance Co. to learn new moves. I'm frankly unaware of how exhausting it is to wake up at 4 AM to tend to a lab experiment, and how frustrating a senior in Spencer Art Studio might be with a piece that won't come together.

Yet, in knowing people that have lived all of these things, I hope that some sort of social osmosis has allowed me some glimpse into the life of a dancer, artist, or athlete. While I may not understand what goes into their work, these people are no longer "other" to me. I've met people from every state and many countries and conversed on every subject with people of widely different interests. I've grown a base of solid friends who know little about the policies I love to consider, and a base of solid peers who spend as much time or more thinking about these same issues.

While Williams hasn't built a academic tower for me in any one subject (though I'm starting one with my upper-level major courses this spring), it has given me a huge base of understanding and knowledge for future projects, as well as the capability to know that this entire analysis might consist only of my delusions.

Photo Credit: / CC BY 2.0

Best of the Record - 9 December 2009

Students mobilize in Hardy for LGBTQ support - By Laura Corona
In a flood of all-campus e-mails and WSO posts, members of the campus community have learned over the last week of the vandalism and homophobic bias incident that took place in Mission over Thanksgiving break. Since the incident, members of the student body have occupied Hardy House in an act designed to draw attention and pressure the administration to give greater recognition to issues surrounding homophobia and institutional support on campus.
The silent majority - By David Michael '13
Almost the entire campus disapproves of the vandalism and graffiti perpetrated in Dennett nearly two weeks ago, even if only at the level that writing on a wall with sharpies is just destructive behavior. Some, more than others, are upset at the homophobic slur written on the entry’s wall.
Although the hurt is very understandable, a response that adds to the factionalization of our already fractious Williams community is counterproductive. The impulsive reaction would be to immediately try to blame a perceived “other” – members of the majority – and assume antagonism on behalf of this large portion of the student body. If this is done, then there arises a false aggressor-victim paradigm that leaves allies in the woodwork uncomfortable with speaking out.
Restoring our academic integrity - By Lawrence Levien '68
Four years at Williams produces a lifetime of learning. Forty years past graduation, I can affirm that seemingly inane platitude with real life experience. We cannot allow one man’s folly to tarnish that truth, and by acting quickly and decisively we will not. Far more injurious than the fraud itself is the inevitable human tendency to ignore it or, worse still, cover it up. We have Richard Nixon, even before Martha Stewart, to prove that point. And closer to our intellectual home, the current furor over the subversion of legitimate science in the climate dialogue illustrates that academics and their institutions are no more virtuous and self-regulated than the rest of us. Williams need be better.
One in 2000 - By Adam Century
I saw you in the parade today – how’s life in the marching band?

Will Harron: Ah, the Mucho Macho Moocow Military Marching Band. When I told the director that I was doing this, he told me that every time I say, “Mucho Macho Moocow Military Marching band” he’d buy me a slice of pizza. I’m shooting for a whole pie. Mucho Macho Moocow Military Marching Band. Three slices. Hold on, what was the original question?

The Beginning

Below are 10 posts originally from Ephblog that I think represent my best reflective work. They are saved here in case anyone wants background on my writing style or views. All 200+ posts from Ephblog can be found here.

Happy Reading!

From Ephblog: On College Visits

The Background
With Previews coming, I thought it might be worthwhile to elaborate on my own Williams visits. Though my earlier post didn't suggest it, I did make a visit to Williams. After a grand northeast college tour of six well known schools that all failed to make a positive impression, including an Amherst tour guide snickering about the temporary freshman dorms during a renovation, I was unsure if my desire for a small liberal arts education would actually go anywhere.

However, I received a different sort of Prospectus a few months later from a school I'd never heard of, but that had come up in my college "match" lists from the Princeton Review and College Board. To make a long story short, I was immensely impressed by the Prospectus, and added Williams to my long list. I then sent out a few Facebook messages to random people from those schools, and got most or all of them back. The Williams answers were the closest to what I wanted, and got the school on the short list.

My parents managed to figure out that someone who had gone to my elementary school was at Williams, and I e-mailed her. Her answers couldn't have matched my hopes better, and I planned a visit for the fall.

The Overnight Visit
I was hosted by a '10. The Admissions office had apparently had a kerfuffle with my paperwork, such that my host had taken me on as a personal favor at the last minute (the only time I've ever heard of this), and had a lab report to write that night. He showed me a few buildings like Sawyer and pre-renovation Goodrich, and then sat down in Jesup to write his lab report. Since it was Sunday night, he sent me off to Mission to go to a friend's snacks.

Result: My most vivid memory of the visit is of walking through Mission, attempting to find an entry on the wrong side of the building, while all of the happy entries enjoyed their snacks. My introverted nature was in full force, and I couldn't bring myself to interrupt an entire group to ask for directions as a prefrosh.

However, I slept well in the oddly shaped Currier common room above the left door, and enjoyed breakfast the next morning at Driscoll. I had a class schedule, and but managed to go to PSYC 101 on a quiz day, so I headed upstairs to a math class. I have no idea who the Prof was, but when he tried to measure the volume of a paper object by filling it with water while writing the equations on the board, Williams had been redeemed, and I wisely judged my earlier visit experience to be a fluke. I met my mom at the Admissions office (she took a tour), and we were homeward bound.

It's a testament to my friend's great answers that Williams couldn't be knocked off of my top spot, and I applied/was accepted ED (which made for a GREAT senior Spring). I wasn't about to spend the money to go to Previews when I had already committed, but I did host people last year. Previews is, obviously, the Admissions Office doing its best to sell Williams to those accepted. Prefrosh generally stay with First-years (though not always), and attend a vast array of activities. My advice to all upcoming visitors is to take sometime to break away from the crowds and plans; when you come to Williams, you will be in charge of your own destiny, and you should spend a few minutes walking around and getting a sense of if you want to call this place home for the next four years.

But above all else, meet people. You aren't going to remember Williams because of the buildings, the food, or the policies that this blog gripes about. You'll remember Williams because of those lunches where you could almost see someone's soul above the Greylock quad, and for that time you spent a few minutes jamming with fellow musicians below Chapin or in Currier. You'll remember Williams because of the great people you chatted with during essay breaks in Sawyer, and because of the good times in a Schow study room while cramming for a test. You'll remember Williams for the conversations deeper than the words exchanged, for the simple pleasure of laying down with friends in the Science Quad, and for the classroom discussions that go far beyond the classroom.

To misquote Jack Sparrow, "Williams is not just buildings and policies and dining; that's what a college needs, but what a college is... what Williams really"

Finish the quote in the comments. I have my own ideas, but I'd like to hear yours.

From Ephblog: In Praise of Storytime

The founders of Storytime are soon to graduate, and though heaps of accolades have already been given to them, especially in the form of the Grosvenor Memorial Cup. However, I think readers near and far should know about the scope of Storytime's achievement.

I and others here sometimes speak of the legendary "Williams Woman" or "Williams Man." This person is a true polymath - he or she excels physically through WOC or a varsity athletic team, artistically expresses him or herself through music, theater, or visual art, and carries a high GPA on the side, while maintaining close friendships and near universal respect. WEPO, JAing, or other campus honors are also the norm for this person. This ideal Eph is created, I think, through an amalgamation of various respected students on campus who have excelled in some of these areas, though not all. This legend is the yardstick that I sometimes compare myself too, enabled by a few real seniors who do seem to excel in all areas.

This myth of "effortless perfection" has been the subject of studies, Gargoyle conversations, and presentations across campus, some before my own time. I'm curious to see if it was around in the days of some of the alum on this blog.

Nevertheless, the myth is alive and well today, with one exception. Storytime is one moment when hierarchy disintegrates: there is only a speaker and an audience, with a facilitator who makes any needed announcements, such as the name of the cookies going around (Tonight: Chex Mix w/ chocolate, peanut butter, and something else)

Like any good tale, such stories usually involve some combination of hardship, trial, and conflict, often along with redemption in the form of loving friends or mentors. But they are always profound - Storytime has become a place to share the history that has shaped a person's character. I often hear of invitations to Storytime by speakers to their friends, who have often heard nothing or a small piece of the deep and powerful narrative of the speaker's experience until that night, along with a group of utter strangers entrusted with the same secrets. It is a place of vulnerability, bound by an unwritten covenant of shared support. I am almost always left discovering something about myself in hearing about others; sometimes realizing a blessing that had gone unnoticed earlier in life, or a hidden value in common experience that I had not yet seen.

But mostly, I hear about times when some of the people I looked up to most had the deepest troubles - the facade is pulled away, and we see each other as we see ourselves - as flawed creatures simply trying to do the best with what we have in life. Storytime is a place of common comfort - where a crowd can support the speaker, and the speaker support the crowd. My life at Williams is better for those gatherings at 9 in Henze lounge, and I look forward to the last of the semester and the other stories in years to come.

From Ephblog: Luxeries

Barack Obama:
My stepfather Lolo said, "Guilt is a luxury only foreigners can afford. Like saying whatever pops into your head." Mother didn't know what it was like to lose everything, to wake up and feel her belly eating itself. She didn't know how crowded and treacherous the path to security could be. He was right, of course. She was a foreigner, middle-class and white and protected by her heredity whether she wanted protection or not. She could always leave if things got too messy. That possibility negated anything she might say to Lolo; it was the unreachable barrier between them. -Dreams from my Father
In the Purple Valley, we are almost all foreigners. Most of us can leave if need be, and we are taken care of in the pursuit of our studies. Our status - Williams student - gives us huge power on this campus. The reality, though, is that the real world is not so accommodating. Injustice happens, war breaks families, and over 15,000 children die every day from hunger (1), (2).

In this context, trayless dining tends to diminish a bit, along with many of the concerns that this blog spends so much time discussing. Yet these issues do matter, and in fact matter immensely to us. I took PSYC 101 this semester, and we went over how much material goods and conditions change a person's happiness. In the short run, people are more happy - I can personally attest to what a three year euphoria feels like. But in the long run, everyone returns to the mean.

This means, I think, that because our conditions are so good, small problems become inflated in our eyes. A long line at Snack Bar here might be equal in some fashion to a much worse problem in a place of true strife. Because let's face it: a debate over how best to allocate housing doesn't really compare to problems in a country with hyper-inflation under a dictator.

However, objectively knowing that something isn't a big problem in worldwide context doesn't change how much it does matter to some people. We do have the luxury of guilt, and can devote time and resources to all sorts of minor problems. I didn't actually need to spend any money to throw an election event in Goodrich last November, but I was able and encouraged to do so.

Is the fact that people care about these problems enough of a reason to think about them? How should we decide where and how to devote our attention?

From Ephblog: On Rankings

Now that Williams's #1 ranking by US News is official, and Forbes has concurred by putting Williams above all other liberal arts schools, I think a few caveats about these rankings are in order. As has already been said, Forbes's methodology is problematic in several ways. First, the weights of each of the components are rather arbitrary: it's hard to say if debt levels are exactly 4 times as important as faculty awards, or how the other factors should relate. Second, some of the data sources are probably flawed: it's probable that inclusion in Who's who is based on variables beyond college quality, and that aren't completely accurate. Third, as Dartmouth pointed out last year, data from sites like Rate my Professors is skewed because of the use of other sites like WSO's Faktrak, and the idea that using these sites won't encourage high ratings from students in order to boost their institution's ranking. US News's data is also problematic in many ways, among them the idea that reported acceptance rates are accurate. Last year, in Morty and Will Dudley's class on the Economics and Philosophy of Higher Education, I learned about a few tricks used by colleges, such as treating people who had half-applied as applicants, or waitlisting students who would have been accepted, then calling them up and offering admission solely to those planning to come. SAT scores are another kettle of fish, but you get my point. Most important, though, is the false idea that Student X will have the best possible education at College #1, the second best at #2, and so on. While I am glad to have chosen Williams, my pleasure is affected strongly by qualitative factors such as the mountains, the relative isolation, and the small size. I knew I wanted those factors before I heard about Williams, but they are strong negatives for other Ephs. Countless frosh arrive at Williams only to discover that they have trouble adjusting to our location, that they miss the city, and that Williams's quality is irrelevant to its incompatibility. Some of my friends actively considered withdrawing for those exact reasons, going so far as to visit other schools. They've all decided to stay, but I don't think attending a #1 ranked school is worth years of misery when happiness can be found somewhere else that's almost as good. Put another ways, I'd much prefer to have a happy, mountains-loving classmate with a 1450 SAT than a unhappy, city-loving classmate with a 1550. Do you agree?

From Ephblog: Voices

One of the rituals I especially enjoy at Williams is the performance of "Voices" during first days. The freshman class files into the '62 Center's Mainstage after their first entry dinner, and a few Williams students stand before the new freshman to declare their story, followed by a common end:

"I go to Williams."

My freshman year, I remember seeing the Voices presentation. The details of who said what are a little fuzzy after two years, but the program absolutely succeeded in presenting a simple idea: that the experience of Williams's students is broad, and that labels and stereotypes are often ignorant and foolish. Or, in other words, diversity education, though the word "diversity" isn't mentioned in the presentation.

This year, I returned to First Days as a part of a different group, but like a few other upperclassmen, wanted to see this year's program. The performers had labels: they were prep schoolers, poor, African-American, "extremely white," foreign, goat-herders, victims of foreclosure, Southern Californians, townies, witnesses of domestic abuse, exceptions to stereotypical rules, nomads. Yet their stories were much deeper than those labels convey; in fact, there was no comparison between the stereotypes of above and the complexity of the people on that stage. It's not that barriers are broken, but rather that they are shown to have never really existed, except in the hive-mind of society.

Williams still struggles with stereotypes and judgments - I still vividly remember the first time I learned about the wealth of one of my friend's family, and was suddenly forced to confront the stereotypes I had about the super-wealthy. Voices doesn't purify us, and it doesn't seek to. It simply shows the freshmen that their world has suddenly expanded, but that the people from "out there" have the same human experience of the familiar. Or something like that...

I won't be surprised if, within the next few days, I witness someone do something strange or funny. Their excuse will be drawn from last night's performance, and it will justify whatever they did that wasn't expected:

"I go to Williams."

From Ephblog: Webmail Tips

Alums and other Ephblog readers: this one will probably be Greek to you. Sorry.

Here are a few tips for using the Williams webmail system:
  1. Expand beyond your inbox. You can add additional folders beyond the Inbox, Drafts, Sent, and Trash folders. My additional folders include one for the Daily Messages, one for Ephblog comment notifications, one for Outling Club messages, and more for other groups. You can put messages into these folders using...
  2. Message Filters. For example, I have my filters set to send anything with "Daily Messages" in the title to the folder I made for them. You can also automatically forward messages from certain people to another e-mail address as well. You do this by....
  3. Changing your options. Options are found on the top right of webmail, next to "Help" and "Sign Out." Under "personal," you can change the name that appears in the "From" field, so that I know that Meredith Kineid is sending me an e-mail, and not Message filters are under mail. Some other options to change:
  4. More messages per page. Under Settings > Display; mine is set for 50. You also want to enable the message pane but disable HTML.
  5. Save original messages under your reply. Otherwise, I'm not sure what question of mine you're responding to, especially if its been a few days. Under Composing > Format > Reply.
  6. If you want, forward all messages to another account. Under forwarding. I prefer not to, but plenty of friends put everything on Gmail.
  7. Use the search. Webmail search is fast and easy to use - it's my quickest way of finding old messages. (I save everything, so I need search to look through all 7999 messages in my inbox or >2000 messages in the folders.)
And lastly, if you don't have time to reply to e-mails, don't open them. Otherwise, you forget to reply because of the volume of messages you get, and whoever sent you the message is left in the dark. I can't count how many times I've gotten an e-mail reply only when I randomly bump into someone. The counterpoint of this is that if no one replies to your e-mail, don't be surprised.

From Ephblog: The Life Cycle of Today's Eph

The below isn't really my own experience, but is informed by it.
  • Freshman Fall: Arrival + lots of lectures and immersion during Camp Williams (First Days). Culture shock, auditions, and the Purple Key fair have you thrown right into the mix. You spend lots of time with your entry, gradually finding your own set of friends. Some people adapt well, others do not. You think that your JAs are gods, and towards then end, start questioning why you ever chose to come to Western Mass for college. :D
  • Freshman Spring: You gain perspective on the snow of December while walking through the slush of February, and come into your own as a Williams student. The pace of making new friends slows, and your entry and JAs become more like people you live with than the family that you were before, though you retain the memories and bonds. You might start to take some leadership in a club, but most people will still be figuring out how to manage social life and the workload. Some people still don't figure it out.
  • Sophomore Fall: Often cited as the hardest semester for a Williams student, you are suddenly separated from your entry. Classmates who bonded pick into housing together, creating lots of mini-friend groups, unless you lose the housing lottery and end up in Tyler Annex or with a stranger roommate. Classmates who had a harder time bonding are suddenly without their default support, and may feel some isolation. Many people take on some leadership or club responsibility, such as the 4 Frosh Revue alums who keep the cult alive as directors, and others start new clubs, some of which fail. You start thinking about a major and applying for JA.
  • Sophomore Spring: Decision time. Major? WEPO? JA? Study Abroad? You party hard and put off the decisions, or don't party and still put off the decisions. 100 souls get slightly crushed by the news that they can't go to WEPO/wear the purple shirt come Spring Break; most all of them end up going abroad and are fine. You decide your major and suddenly realize that you've gone and made a life decision. Maybe.
  • Junior Fall: If you're abroad, you have a good time and maybe write a neat blog about it. If you aren't you wonder around campus wondering where your class went. The realization that college is over half-over is not reassuring, and the classes are getting harder. You enjoy your first room that can't be a double, unless you want one. You realize you've gotten the hang of college, and wonder what took so long. Unless you a JA, in which case your frosh are your life, which is both great and wearing. You organize a screw dance, enjoy taking your frosh to parties, and see your friends maybe twice a week.
  • Junior Spring: You worry about what's happening this summer, and go through applications for various fellowships, with those continuing through school. You attempt to gain more certainty about life, and maybe go abroad. Your class is still widely dysfunctional, and you might be a TA or some other sort of supervisor. Mostly, though, you keep on.
  • Senior Fall: Everything is now your last: Mountain Day, First-Days, your last first First Friday. This is very frightening, and you start interviewing/applying for jobs like mad. You class is reunited and hopefully enjoys First Chance. You realize that the current freshman are admiring you the way you admired the seniors when you are a freshman. You first feel unworthy and then realize that you freshman feelings were unfounded, and that people don't change in college like they do in High School. You LOVE your co-op, if you got one. You realize off-campus housing is more on-campus than most on-campus housing.
  • Senior Spring: You are either calm, because you know what you are doing after graduation, or panicked, because you do not. These two camps become more an more separated as the seniors with known futures care less and less, and those without plans freak out more and more. You start to feel sad about leaving this place, and gain some level of class unity, enabled by a development office getting it's last shot at you. You count down your last 100 days, then head off into the world, both ready and unready, fully and yet unprepared.

From Ephblog: More on Moore

First, it should be noted that Moore's plea in 1987 to credit card fraud may not have constituted the extent of his illicit activities. The plea might have allowed him to escape more serious charges on his record, which would be why the maximum sentences are so much lower this time around, though more money is involved. On a purely curious level, I'm very interested in what he was doing prior to getting his Master's. Was all of this an effort to help his past self of 20 years ago? Did he see problems when in custody that motivated him to pursue this degree? I don't know. In fact, we can't be sure of anything from before 2003, except for his legal record and illegal activities.

Second, Moore was a polarizing figure on campus. Some people liked him; others did not. Most importantly, the line between these two groups wasn't racial. In my view, it was based on one's personal experience, which widely varied. For me personally, Moore was a good guy. He gave lots of advice on how DC worked, and answered my questions for a long time, even when I was just stopping by. I don't know what his motive was for doing so, but he treated me with respect. I will also admit that I looked to him for possible DC connections, though unlike other students, I did not benefit from those connections. In the many conversations I've had about this in the past two days, I've heard again and again that here, he brought something unique to the table, relative to other Williams professors, and people valued that.

Third, the above does not excuse him of being a poor teacher, but as comments from other posts have shown, visiting professors are not always good teachers. In fact, I had a poor experience myself freshman year, and students often advise each other to avoid visiting professors. Williams is such a place where there are bad and easy classes. Oftentimes, the students who want them end up in them. While this is an academic institution, students here challenge themselves in a myriad of ways, and Williams values that. We seek a social life, community, involvement, excellence in sports, excellence in the performing arts, and more. These other commitments can sometimes be greater than the aggregate of all of one's classes. Ask any theater performer here about tech-week. If that diversity of interests is, in its nature, counter to the best possible education, then Williams has chosen to sacrifice that purely educational experience for some students. Importantly, other students here do have a purely academic experience that works wonderfully for them. But ultimately, if a student chooses to go through Williams taking all easy classes, that's their choice, and I would argue against any attempt to manage our courses beyond what currently exists. For example, I think this blog and its commentators educate me in a way that is unique from my classes.

Fourth, we have to separate Moore's academic work from his professionally criminal behavior. The two are distinct, but people as using the latter to criticize the former. It just happens that in this case, complaints about Moore's teaching style are much more difficult to defend, given the fact that he was stealing money while in Williams's employ. That he betrayed us does not mean that anyone can draw conclusions about his worth as an academic. It does mean that we should examine his past degrees and history, to see what is true. It also means that any discussion of bad teaching at Williams, in this context, is going to be unfair. That may be desired by some of the people who were rightly upset about his teaching (I can corroborate most all of the negative comments), but this isn't the right place. Nor would it be fair to use this moment as the context for a discussion about hiring and race. The deck is stacked.

Lastly, I think his presence on campus detracted from the value of my degree, that his hiring made a farce of Williams's focus on teaching ability, and that even bringing Pelosi (which he mentioned, as well as Valerie Jarrett) would not have changed the first two statements. However, for many students, that was enough, and they are free to decide their own priorities. Williams is a place of diverse opinions, and I have hugely benefited from them in the past 36 hours. I will post any other letters from Wagner as they come.

From Ephblog: Williams Online

Williams on Facebook:
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From Ephblog: Dinner on the Hill

William Slack '11
1973 Paresky
Williams College

Dear Will,

Mimi and I are hosting a dinner.....

Such began the letter I received last year in my Paresky mailbox. Unlike almost every other communication at Williams, this one did not come via e-mail, though the RSVP instructions were electronic. Morty was inviting me to his formidable home on Route 2 for dinner, and I had little idea what to expect.

It wasn't like I had never been to a dinner before. I had set the table many times at home with our best china for Christmas dinner - pulling out silverware that belonged to a great-great something and the plates that usually lurked in the dining room cabinet. When I went to Washington D.C. for the finals in a scholarship competition, the Mayflower Hotel served so many nice meals that I got a little tired of them, and desserts so gorgeous that I almost wanted to leave them untouched.

Yet, this invitation was different. President's House dinners were something of a rumored secret on campus - at events with more major speakers, I sometimes saw a front section of reserved seats for the entourage of well attired students, faculty, and administrators coming from the Morty's house. Jewish friends of mine spoke of celebrating Yom Kippur with Morty, and tour guiding friends had an invitation to brunch that slightly irked me - I had scheduled a meeting for the same time-slot. The invitation was also personal (he signed it) and purposeless: I was neither family nor competitor, but rather a guest.

Come the appointed day and time, I proceeded up the hill and was promptly confused about where to go - the front door had a sign indicating another door on the side of the building, but no one else was around and I felt like a trespasser. I skulked around back and eventually found the right door, promptly meeting a greeter who directed me to drop off my coat and to pick up a nametag. Thumbing through them to find mine, I saw a mixture of names, most of which I was unfamiliar with, and proceeded with proper identification down the hall to a lovely reception.

At this point, I should state that I used to have a problem with receptions. Whatever quality some people possess that allows them to slide in and out of conversations like butter is alien to me, and in feeling awkward, I made myself appear awkward. Yet, through a combination of friends and introductions, I somehow survived, and have since learned something about the art of social maneuvering. Having been informed of my table number by one of the many staff walking around with reception food, I went into a dining room with an incredible number of tables and chairs in close proximity and found my seat. My table had a family who knew Morty, as well as a professor and other students, and for the first time at Williams, I wasn't in charge of my food. There was no salad bar or food line, and all I needed to concentrate on were the people at my table.

In a larger sense, Williams is the same way for academics. Only in college are my true responsibilities limited to eating, sleeping, reading, and going to class. Williams takes care of all of the logistics for us, and while I might occasionally bemoan the political apathy that I think stems from such isolation from the trials of normal life, there is great value in being able to have a purely academic experience. In the same way, this dinner conversation was a purely social experience, and hugely valuable in that respect. Meeting someone new at Williams is always strange because either you or them inevitably have something to do within the next 24 hours that hasn't been done, but I was free of any obligation but my conversation, and in that, was rewarded with a better experience than would have been possible otherwise.

Morty eventually stood up and praised our guest; we soon had to go to the their lecture, but as I looked around at the chatting students and faculty, something occurred to me that I sent in my thank-you note: "The experience was unique to my time here at Williams - we are often so busyon campus that we miss the chance to talk about ideas and theories outside of an academic context, and this dinner provided that opportunity. It struck me as a middle ground between the modern college experience and the days when all the unaffiliated Williams men had to wear a full suit to dinner in Baxter Hall each evening."

Dinner at Morty's brought me back a little to that bygone era, and while I'm glad my sweat-stained t-shirt is appropriate attire at Driscoll or Greylock, dinner at Morty's made my Williams experience a little more special, and made the snow trudging to come a little easier. I wish that everyone could have that sort of experience; plus, it's neat to see everyone cleaned up.