Little more than a week back in the Pioneer Valley and already the plaintive cries of Amherst’s oppressed student body ring out amidst the peaks of the Holyoke Range. Never mind that Frost library, that ill-lit, slightly musty, always frigid brick behemoth has been remodeled to resemble an actual library instead of a mountain cave. Never mind that Valentine dining hall, once the scourge of all things edible, has developed its cuisine from ‘rarely palatable’ to ‘sometimes palatable’ and is embarking on a Domino’s Pizza scale marketing-campaign. Never mind that the online course scheduler has now permanently replaced those easily misplaced yellow cards, and is not only functional, but makes Add-Drop period that much easier to handle now that I don’t have to sit outside my advisor’s office for 4 hours while some hapless soul can’t decide between EasyScienceLecture 101 and IDon’tHaveToGoToDiscussion 101. Never mind that we have a new President who is bent on taking this college to even higher levels than it has already reached, not only surpassing Williams to reach #1 on the US News Rankings but climbing higher, to the legendary vaunted position of #1A+.
Instead, the roving eye of
Sauron disgruntled students (who am I kidding, the entire student body) has decided to cast its withering gaze on new social policies concerning the use of basement spaces in the Socials and a decision to withhold funding from off-campus Senior events. I shall respond to these items in turn, including my reactions to the reactions of the student body.
The Socials remain the center of parties at Amherst, despite recent renovations to both the Triangle and the Hill. Both are located a good distance from the main campus. The Triangle, home to largely seniors, sees mainly senior-heavy parties, the occasional athletic team, and TAPs. The Hill is simply too fucking far away and nobody wants to walk there knowing they will have to drunkenly wander back across busy roads and through a driving rainstorm (because it is always a driving rainstorm when one has to walk long distances in Amherst). Thus, the Socials have continued to be the perfect location for all manner of Amherst parties. Suites can be snagged by seniors, juniors, and even the luckiest of sophomores – allowing for a variety of attendees to any given event. Suite parties can be overcrowded, hot, and loud – often exactly what I’m looking for after a long week when all I want to do is D.A.N.C.E. But the college has been obligated by law to follow a new directive which states that spaces which hold 100 or more people cannot be used unless they have a working sprinkler system. Due to this new regulation, parties can no longer be held in Crossett, Davis, or Stone basements. Many in the student body have apparently taken this to be an assault on their civil liberty to party – declaring the situation a TAPOCALYPSE and beginning to resemble hysteria-driven Fox News as they storm about campus accosting passers-by with facts of questionable veracity.
My response to this first issue is as follows: WHY?
Last time I checked, there were more than three places on campus to hold dark, loud, sweaty parties (all good things in moderation). There are even more than three Socials – the musty recesses of Pond and Coolidge Basement have seen many a lively ruckus and are certainly clamoring for more. No more Crossett Christmas? But isn’t there another Social that begins with the letter ‘C’, thus saving the alliterative festival of eggnog for yet another year? Oh, yes there is, yes there is (and I am not going to say what it is because I JUST MENTIONED IT). And you know what? The Triangle and the Hill aren’t that far away in relation to say, UMass, where one has to walk the length of the Appalachian Trail and back simply to get a cup of coffee. So here is my coda to this first response: Amherst students, do not fret. Continue to enjoy your nights out the way you always do – by pre-gaming with cheap shots (there is truly nothing more delicious) until you are too drunk to see straight and then stumbling arm-in-arm with your friends to the nearest corresponding group of yelling figures until your growing person-amoeba evolves into a party. It’s fun. It happens all the time. And there is no problem with it.
Concerning the issue of lost funding for senior class events, I present you with a small anecdotal story of mine.
When I turned sixteen, I felt as though the world was mine. I still couldn’t smoke, drink, or buy porn and lottery tickets, but that didn’t matter to me – I had something more powerful than all of those things, something that put the power of superhuman speed, agility, and snack-getting prowess into my hand: a brand new New Hampshire Driver’s License. I held it in my hands, gazing down into my own sullen face, realizing with glee that suddenly I was no longer trapped by my parents, who, when I was that age, seemed more like Gaddafi-times-two rather than George Burns and Gracie Allen. But my joy was tempered by the fact that I did not have a car and thus my license was no more useful than a splinter remover. I was not to be defeated without a fight, however, and I hastily removed myself to my room, crafting what I thought was the list to end all lists, a Declaration of Independence-like document containing my well-thought out reasons for why I needed a car. In my imagination, I pictured myself emerging downstairs with an elegant and commanding air, Churchill-like, and calmly inviting my parents to sit down and help themselves to tea. I would then launch emphatically into my prepared speech, during which my father would make exclamations at my gifted prose and my mother would be driven to tears by my eloquence. Triumphantly I would conclude, and then, after a moment of stunned silence, my parents would break into applause and would present me with a brand new Porsche Boxter.
In real life, however, I stumbled through my list as my parents half-listened and exchanged knowing looks, and I realized all the while that my attempt was doomed from the start. I gave one last plea of desperation, sat terrified through a moment of silence, and listened helplessly as my mother delivered the killing ‘NO’. I have been left carless ever since, with my only solace coming when I use my license to purchase whiskey and drink my car-sorrows away.
Why did I submit you to this story of youthful hope and painful futility? I answer: Amherst seniors, you are beginning to resemble sixteen-year-old children – the equivalent on the college evolutionary chain of a helpless premature naked mole rat. To the indignant voices crying out about lost cover charges, I say ‘WHY?’ I had no idea that the college provided funding for these events – I think it’s great that it did, allowing seniors to enjoy themselves on the cheap – but it has decided to cease due to liability issues. This is unfortunate but bears resemblance to the first issue – just as parties in Socials without fire systems are not allowed due to a law, issues with liability carry a similar weight. Amherst has simply decided that it cannot be responsible for things its students do off-campus in a drunken rage, or for medical issues thus ensuing. I find this entirely reasonable, and as part of a family involved in running a business, understand the headaches that liability issues and insurance can cause for an organization. Bar Night will be no less enjoyable due to a small cover charge or lack of a special back room, and I will continue to attend to enjoy time with my friends out on the town. Any discussions of the ‘ramifications’ of this issue are better put to use talking about actual issues with our College and problems that actually have solutions. If I see another poster declaring the end of partying on campus I will use it on my next visit to the bathroom. And I just received an AAS email about the ‘issue’, which, unfortunately, is unusable in bathroom situations.