Phyllis McGuire: Williams campus bustling with student activities, chatter


WILLIAMSTOWN — The season of new beginnings is not marked on the calendar, but the signs that it has arrived are clear.

From my kitchen window, I see the telltale yellow bus shuttling children back and forth to school. And when I visited the Williams College campus on Labor Day weekend, students were riding bicycles and scooters as well as walking on paths leading to Paresky Center (the student center) and the new Sawyer Library.

The new green space that replaces the old Sawyer Library, which was demolished in 2015, is pleasing to the eye, and the students I spoke to are glad to have more green space in the heart of the campus. "But I hope they take down the 'Stay off the sod' sign," one senior said.

In a creative outdoor gathering place called The Ledges, several sophomores were chatting as they sat on pure white marble benches. As if reading my mind, one of the students said, "This is comfortable, but I wouldn't want to sit here when its freezing cold or snowing."

Eric, who is from California, chimed in "I love snow. I was disappointed last year when we only had little more than a coating."

In front of Paresky Center, a Frosh Revue banner was hanging between two tables, where sophomores Isabel Benjamin, a Londoner, and Michael Rubel of Kansas City, were encouraging first-year students to audition for a satire of the Williams experience.

"Steven Sondheim (Class of 1950) started Frosh Revue," the Londoner said, referring to the famous lyricist and composer whose work includes "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and "West Side Story."

Recalling her days as a freshman, Benjamin said, "London is a big city with lots of ways to get around. it took me a little time to get used to being (here) without public transportation."

Nearby, Gabe, Alyssa and Amy were "excited" about being seniors.

"This is a last chance to start off right," Gabe said. His classmates teased him about "partying," but he took it with a smile. "We've been best friends since we were freshmen in the same dorm," Alyssa said.

Gabe, who hails from Washington, D.C., already has a job lined up in New York City for when he leaves the hallowed halls of academia.

"Williams prepared me well," he said.

For Midwesterner Charlie Wiser, being a senior is "like having one foot in and one foot out."

James, from New York state, said returning to Williams is very different for him as a senior.

"For the first time, I'm living off campus," he said. "A friend and I are renting an apartment on Spring Street. It's so much nicer than the dorms."

I caught up with some of the freshman flocking to a First Days event they were required to attend.

The First Days programming provides incoming students with an opportunity to learn about Williams and their classmates.

"Everyone has been so welcoming," Calen, of Phoenix, paused to tell me, "and by participating in the Root program I got to know how the college and students feel about environmental sustainability and social issues."

Freshman Luke participated in the "Where Am I?" program.

"In three days, we drove around surrounding communities and border towns in Vermont and New York," he said.

A freshmen who has been taking part in optional events in addition to required events admitted, "I'm so tired, I don't know my right from my left."

Nonetheless, I believe the smile on his face revealed he had no regrets about the way he was beginning his college career.

Californian Li Yu, aged 17, chose to attend Williams primarily because its "art program was very appealing.

"And the '62 Center (for Theatre and Dance) is great," he said.

But he realizes he will not be spending all his time at Williams indoors.

"I have to buy boots," he said.

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown.


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