Dormitory life is an Anglo-American peculiarity. Drawing on residential colleges at, for instance, Oxford and Cambridge, colleges like Amherst build their pedagogy on the firm belief that collegiate co-residence will produce a livelier intellectual atmosphere than would a university at which students go to class and then return to their separate homes. The idea is a familiar one: putting bodies together in houses and bedrooms will thrust the minds inhabiting those bodies into some kind of close-knit intellectual community.
After what seemed to be a three week grace period, complete with sunny weather, manageable workloads and the lingering air of excitement about a new year, it feels like the semester has been sent into overdrive. Temperatures have fallen, making it that much harder to get out of bed in the morning, and the due date for that first round of papers is coming up soon. In this time of peak stress and anxiety, it’s easy for students to enter survival mode. It’s crucial for our campus to overcome this tendency and maintain the excitement and curiosity we started the semester with.
I grew up in a community that was a bubble. Demographically, my school district was dominated by Asians. My family rarely left the area except to visit our relatives in China. I grew up thinking that it was normal to be surrounded by Asian people and Asian culture, and if not, to be surrounded by people who understood them. It was only when I was older, and I started paying attention to media and news, that I began to realize the difficulties Asian Americans face nationwide.
Consulting season at Amherst came fast. Open the “Career Columns” newsletter and you get the sinking feeling that if you’re not working for Parthenon, Bain or going to Harvard Law, you’re probably out of luck. Talk of an upcoming case interview workshop or a friend’s lucrative summer internship often slips into daily conversation. While Amherst offers consulting and finance opportunities throughout the year, fall is a particularly intense time of year for those hoping to land a summer internship or a pre-graduation job offer.
Two Decembers ago, a University of Colorado Boulder Resident Administrator asked to enter the dorm room of a friend whom I was staying with over winter break. Seven or eight of my good friends from high school were drinking together in the room, and the RA had to investigate because she’d heard someone yell, “that shot was awful!” When the RA saw a can of beer sitting in the corner, she was required to get valid identification from each of us, call a police officer to the room,and pour the beer can out while the officer watched.
As one might assume, I am becoming incredibly familiar with certain places on campus as a first-year student: my dorm, Val, the first-year quad. However, there is one place that I frequently occupy that most might not think to put on this list: the Quantitative Reasoning Center. Spending a lot of time in the Q-Center still doesn’t seem that odd, except for the fact that I am enrolled exclusively in humanities courses this semester. No, I am not seeking calculus help, but instead the half-dead printer in the center.
At Amherst and other similar elite institutions, there’s no question that money is a driving force. Wealthy alums have buildings named after them, the College spends thousands on coveted speakers and the AAS consistently touts its million dollar budget. The question of our endowment, and more importantly, its strong associations with powerful alumni have been brought to attention in a recent New York Times piece. The article features interviews with Amherst alums who have since retracted or reduced their gifts to the college in the wake of events such as Amherst Uprising.