Even with the economic troubles of the college and the beginning of another semester, Williams students are as busy as ever in their extracurricular activities. An idea has been proposed to create the Williams College Commons Club (WCCC) which will target the lack of variety of social activities that students often complain about on campus. Interestingly enough, two of the four candidates for my year’s Class Representative in the current CC election are involved in the start of this new club.

Chris Hikel ’13 described the Commons Club on WSO.

“The WCCC was formed in response to what we viewed as a general discomfort towards meaningful interpersonal engagement among students on the Williams College campus. In our view, this discomfort is not exclusive to social engagement, it also envelopes intellectual and political engagement. What does this mean, and how do we intend to address it?

Social engagement: Here is an example of the type of thing we see and intend to address–While there are various spaces, events, and occasions on campus that cater to heavy-drinking and its polar opposite, abstinence from drinking, there is virtually no event, space, or occasion on campus that specifically targets what we view as the most desirable yet conspicuously absent form of drinking: social drinking.

For example, look at the WAD/Goodrich dynamic. Don’t get me wrong–I like the parties in Goodrich as much as the next guy–but they are not “social” in nature. Everybody is 100% drunk and even if two people did manage to actually “meet” each other there, it’s not a suitable environment to get to know each other (nor will you be suitably sober enough to remember each other). As for the Williams After Dark events in Paresky, as an example of zero-alcohol events, a lot of people just don’t think making quilts (and completely sober, no less) is fun.

Therefore, one of our goals is to increase the number AND QUALITY of social drinking events on campus. Do not misinterpret our goal: we are not deriding any form of social life currently on campus, nor are we trying to reduce the amount of heavy-drinking or non-alcoholic events. We want to supplement them with other events that will fill in the gaps that are currently not covered by any groups on campus.

I have brainstormed, spoken to alumni, and to people who attend other schools of similar size to Williams and have come up with many ideas for events and ways to make them happen, including funding ideas.

Intellectual engagement: We feel that there is a surprisingly small amount of real intellectual engagement that goes on outside of the classroom at Williams. As a believer in the phrase “If you build it they will come,” I refuse to chalk this lack of discourse to something as simple as, “Oh, well it’s just not in the Williams culture to speak intelligently to each other outside of the classroom.” We believe that intellectual diversity is as important as more visible types of diversity, and therefore there should be events geared toward both fun AND intellectual engagement. We predict that these would be smaller events (20-30 people), but again, the WCCC’s goal is to fill in the gaps where they currently exist, large and small.

Political engagement: Along the same lines, I would argue that Williams College is one of the most apathetic campuses I have seen in terms of politics. Once again, I don’t believe this is because we just happen to have 2200 students that don’t care about anything or hold political opinions upon which they are willing to act. To be honest, we have done the least amount of brainstorming about how to energize political engagement on campus relative to social and intellectual engagement (mostly because the small group of us that has organized this club from the beginning has such a diverse set of political views that we prefer not to get sidetracked in political discussion when we meet). Nonetheless, we have some ideas and we would like to form a committee (once we are CC-official) to explore ideas for events that are both FUN and political in nature.”

The WCCC has already conducted its first event on the first day the students got back from Dead Week– the No Holds Barred Comedy Night. As a student, I admit that I was very impressed with how much publicity the creators of the WCCC fostered. They had a quite a large showing, especially considering that it was the night before Claiming Williams Day and the WCCC was not an official campus club yet. (I have not received word back about WCCC’s current status as an official campus group.)

However, an article appeared in the Op-Ed column of the Record, raising a concern that the “no-holds barred” and “intellectually free” (The WCCC’s own words in promoting their Comedy Night) humor may be offensive to a point where its effort to break away from the norm may stifle a different kind of dissent. The writer cited the old College Smokers as an example to show that the potentially offensive group was eliminated not to remove offensive material but to let the students targeted by the sexist, racist, homophobic, and other offensive jokes have the safety to belong to the larger society.

While I do not believe for a single moment that the WCCC is all about spreading vulgar and offensive jokes, it is curious to see the argument against the creation of WCCC. Many of the messages the WCCC is sending are cryptic. Underage (for many of us here are, in fact, underage) social drinking events sponsored by a CC-approved club? More intellectual discussions for students to come to, despite disinterest in already established discussions, talks and panels? The plans to change the political engagement levels on this campus when the few people that met to discuss the group didn’t want to get “sidetracked” by political discussions? I acknowledge and applaud the WCCC’s courage to put words and actions to these issues, but many of the plans laid out are confusing, which may explain why the writer of the Op-Ed article was confused about WCCC’s activities and intentions as well.

The first meeting of the WCCC has taken place over this week, and it seems, whether already CC-official or not, that this new club is on its way to a strong start in the Williams community.

What is your take on the Commons Club?

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