The purpose of a college experience isn’t to make students feel as if they are in a well-insulated bubble. Just as depictions of a typical college student as a video game-addicted humanities major who uses the pronoun “they” and abides by a strict gluten-free diet disregards the lived experiences of countless students, so too do any allusions that colleges are idyllic enclaves.
Enrolling at Williams for example, does not immediately reshape all students’ lives into concentric circles with Frosh Quad at their center. Instead, each student has a Venn diagram-like series of circles of their families, previous neighborhoods, schools and friend groups, all bartering for space among 2,100 other students.
Over the last five years, to help mitigate some of the tensions that are bound to arise from this complex configuration, staff members at the Davis Center have been leading workshops on social identity formation and facilitation as part of the spring and fall training sessions for Junior Advisors. These trainings are complemented by an array of events during First Days that seek to provide the entering class an introduction to the identities and perspectives they are likely to encounter at Williams.
Virtually every entering class arrives on campus better versed on issues related to gender, race and sexuality than their predecessors. Challenges posed by trying to keep up with the pace of this ever changing community partly explain why college students are such fraught discursive subjects.
Rapidly shifting demographics, an evolving language of gender and sexual identity so vibrant it would make Hilda Doolittle [a modernist poet known for challenging gender norms] proud, are but just two of the factors pushing colleges through existential dilemmas.
There are broader questions as well, such as: Is college a place for intellectual exploration? Or is it a glorified worker-training program?Sadly, in our time it is a place for indoctrination in the leftist mishegas that engenders thin-skinned drones who deplore free speech and who are adrift in a Venn diagram-like series of circles of like-minded moral narcissists (a vast and remorseless echo chamber).