Self-reliance in the Face of Adversity
Issue   |   Wed, 11/02/2011 - 02:47

Amherst has many things to be thankful for: the Halloween-weekend Nor’easter affected a limited area, and the response took place immediately. Even though Facilities and our staff got Amherst back on track, we must admit: Amherst got lucky.

A series of fortunate events followed the chaos of the storm. After hours of downed phone lines, Campus Police managed to establish a new phone line for emergencies and notifications; generators hummed in Val; plows cleared the roads; workers repaired fried transformers; students were fed; and most fortunate of all, there was no loss of property or life. Storms only need to produce one or two days of hunger, darkness, cold and isolation for desperation and confusion to set in. In avoiding this, we have been very lucky.

So far, someone has always managed to pull through to provide us with what we need. But our system, being run by only a handful of people, is fragile. The system came close to being overwhelmed — or so it looked in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Just as luckily, at the same time, students pulled together in a shining example of both self-reliance and generosity. Scenes of students coming together to make do and provide for themselves played out across campus.

Students on the Hill cooked burritos and boiled water over a fire, huddling to stay warm in shared blankets in the common room. Concerned dorm residents opened their doors to take in strangers braving the blizzard, while generous friends and Good Samaritans took in those without power and faced with the daunting trek home through snow.

All of this came without coordination. Students organized themselves to take initiative and make the best out of the situation. They did not presume that aid would be spoonfed to them, nor did they complain.

This is the kind of attitude that Amherst students need to cultivate. In the face of situations like this, and perhaps worse, it is important for us as a community to be ready and not to be crippled with dependency. Many criticize elite colleges for cultivating a sense of entitlement in students, and for not giving them adequate training and opportunity to grow independent.

We should allow this experience to train us to avoid this mindset. Not only will it prevent chaos in trying times, but it should also make us more responsible and capable citizens of the world — a goal that Amherst should always aspire to achieve.