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My First Room Draw

Since seeing the juniors mull over the Co-op draw earlier in the year, my friends and I have been preparing ourselves for the dreaded room draw. I was especially obsessed with techniques to get the best rooms since my room this year ended up being quite spacious for a freshman dorm. The upperclassmen had their advices- Pick in with smaller groups, be ready to split up or double, etc.. But it seemed, as my group of 6 entered the room draw, there was no guarantee, no predictable pattern to the room draw process.

To be fair, I belong to Dodd neighborhood and had prepared myself for a less-than-ideal housing in Tyler Annex. A couple of friends here and there tried switching out of the neighborhood. Some of them succeeded and many did not. Our group decided that instead of placing our bets on a chance that didn’t seem too likely, we would find more practical ways to get better housing. We had mixed genders in the group to avoid being hurt by the gender cap.

After an anxious wait, we received a pretty darn good pick number- a cause for celebration. Like the other freshmen, we shopped around for desirable rooms and discussed our priorities. For my group, staying together and having a common space was important, although we were willing to double and split up if the worst happened.

I arrived really early for room draw and fell into despair as the upperclassmen took the rooms and buildings that we had wanted to pick into. Against our predictions, almost no upperclassmen athletes had picked into Tyler Annex. I started stressing out, frantic not to end up that far from the campus next year. Running desperate, we decided that staying in the same building was the best choice, even if we would have to double. Thankfully, we had an early enough pick that we could pick into singles that were not in the Annex. Not only that, but our friends who were in later pick groups also got into the same building.

In retrospect, our room draw was not as stressful as I had made it out to be. We were going to be able to live together in the same buildings and we all ended with singles in the end. Unlike this year, I had some say in where I would be living and who I would be living with next year. Even without the choice, I had a very nice room and neighbors this year. Many freshmen stressed over their poor pick numbers and did not end up with their first choices, but many people were content with the results of the room draw.

A week after the draw, I went to visit the room that I would be living in next September. The current resident was not in, but the student next door showed her similar room to me. It was much bigger than I thought. I looked around at the common room and the kitchen. Content with my choice, I was proud of braving through my first college room draw process without breaking down in tears, despite all of the time I spent poring over floor plans.

I have one question though- is it too early to be looking forward to next year’s room draw?

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New Club on the Block

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?

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My First Time “Claiming Williams”

Ugh. I drag myself out of the bed at 8:40 in the morning, my body tired from the hustle and bustle that was the first day of spring term. Why? I had promised myself not to let this “free” day go to waste and actually attend a lot of the events. At least, as much as my mind could stay awake for. Professor Fein’s address was going to start at 9:30, and I wanted to make sure I had a good seat at Mainstage.

I got there expecting virtually nothing. To credit the organizers for the events, it must have been really hard to pull all of these speakers and events together for a single day. However, I learned the day before that many of the freshmen were still not really sure what Claiming Williams Day will consist of. We saw all of these flyers and advertisements. Heck, the organizers event came through during entry snacks to encourage everyone. But still, we were as confused as ever, many of us opting to go to a lecture or two and call it a day.

When I entered Mainstage, I saw a surprising amount of faculty members already seated in the audience. My friend pointed out that even Adam Falk was here to listen to the start of this day. Slowly, the groggy students filed in to fill the rest of the seats. To some point, I expected less students to show up simply because it was 9:30 in the morning. Many people I recognized, and far more that I didn’t really know, were present to listen to Professor Fein.
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The Snack Bar Paradox

For those of us students stuck with a full 21-meals-per-week meal plan, not going to the Snack Bar after skipping dinner in the dining halls seem like a waste of money.

The dinner equivilancy points were created for busy students who cannot go down to eat in the dining halls during dinner hours. Before coming to Williams, it never occured to me that there will be some days when- in between those meetings, classes, long lab periods and rehearsals- I would not feel like getting dinner at the dining halls. However, as soon as we freshmen arrived at Williams, we learned that the late night snacks at the Snack Bar and the ’82 Grill are pretty much the best things ever when trying to stay awake through that assignment due tomorrow.

However, the system is not without its negatives

The main problem with these dinner equivalency points seems to be that the students often feel pressured to spend the $7 worth of points at the Lee Snack Bar, even if they are not particularly hungry at the time. The points do not roll over and must be spent that day. In reasoning that not spending the points at the Snack Bar is like throwing away money, students often buy food that they’re not going to need to eat. There aren’t many options at the Snack Bar that can be saved for the next day (only those cereal and oatmeal packages, at least, as far as most are aware of), so the students will often consume unnecessary amounts of food in order to not waste the points.

“The major downfall of the Williams Dining system is that the points don’t roll over,” I overheard a student say on that long line to the cash register. She continued. “I mean, what if I didn’t want anything tonight? Why can’t I save it for another night, when there actually is a reason for me to want extra food?” While everyone might not consider it as the dining system’s biggest problem, everyone remembers those few days where we all wished that the points would roll over to the next day.

Another problem with the Snack Bar may be the lack of healthy options you can get with those $7 of dinner points. As a health-conscious entity, the Dining staff has few healthy options at the snack bar, such as the veggie pockets or black bean burgers. However, these vegetarian items often equal less quantity for the same price of non-vegetarian items. “I can never get a smoothie with a black bean burger,” one vegetarian student said to me, “The side salads here are an expensive option compared to the french fries. The Snack Bar made me realize that- oh, yeah, it really is more expensive to try to eat healthier.”

There also exists problems with long waits for the Snack Bar. The staff works diligently to keep the line moving, but it is inevitable that the wait for certain nights will go up to 40 minutes, just to get the order in. “I’m not surprised,” a friend observed, “I mean, they’re serving how many people per night from that tiny little corner?” With usually one or two worker taking orders, one person making the drinks, and three of the staff working in the kitchen area, it really seems impossible to streamline the process without expanding the kitchen and staff.

So can these problems be solved? Maybe. The last one seems to be the hardest to solve, as the popularity of the Snack Bar– the demand that keeps it going– will not die down soon. Few students suggested that there be multiple locations open late night for access to food, especially the Eco Cafe in Schow Atrium or one of the dining halls. However, it seems that this is not a plausible option in the midst of trimming costs. The same applies to the increase in cheaper healthy options or storable foods, and even the roll-over of points seem not as quite easy to set up as we think.

For now, the Snack Bar will have to stay this way.

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Does PeopleSoft Hate Me?- a First Post

As a freshman in college, one may be expected to change his or her mind about things. However, it is quite another thing to have to change your first ever college class schedule eight times. Especially when PeopleSoft, the Course Catalog and the departments all claim different things.

For some freshmen, scheduling is done in one try. After hours of painstakingly researching the online Catalog, listening to advices from the upperclassmen, and desperately trying to find classes that do not overlap, you pick your courses in the SelfReg and enroll during the right time period. For others, it is not so quite easy.

After those AP or IB scores arrive in your hands, it suddenly turns out that you are not eligible to take the lower level class you wanted because it is full, and the registrar would like to drop the students with higher scores. It’s quite understandable. But wait- a few days later, it turns out that you were dropped from yet another class for the same reason. All right, it’s getting annoying, but what can you do? You find another upper-level class to take. And then- as it turns out- you can’t take that upper-level class you really wanted to take because, this time, you are required to take the lower-level class first, despite having the AP score to place out.

With hours of shuffling classes and times, you finally arrive at the campus to a set schedule- or so you think. It turns out that you don’t need that one class for your major after all. And a meeting with a department head made you realize that you didn’t need that lower-level class because your AP score allows you to place out.

At this point, if your head didn’t explode from trying to fit in these classes, you may be waiting patiently for SelfReg to open up for the add/drop now, very angry at the fact that the information from SelfReg, the Registrar, the school website and the actual departments did not match up.

Don’t get me wrong- I still love this place so much, it scares the impatient and angry New Yorker in me- but it’s very frustrating to see that while I had to change my schedule about 8 times, many of my friends from other colleges did not have conflicts with their schedules at all.

Maybe it depends of your luck. Maybe I’m the overachiever who is interested in everything. Or maybe I’m limiting myself too much in my class selection. But right now, I’m convinced that PeopleSoft hates me.

Do you think there are realistic ways to improve the scheduling system around here? Personally, I would be glad if the different parts of the enrollment process were integrated with the same information.

Also, back when PeopleSoft was not used by Williams, was the schedule making process easier or harder compared to how it is now?

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