The sit-in at Frost Library last Thursday was supposed to last an hour. Most of us expected to leave the library at 2 p.m., believing we would make it to our afternoon classes and evening commitments. Instead, many people stayed in the library for nearly four days straight. Students, faculty, staff and administrators stayed for hours to listen to students speak about their experiences of racism and other forms of discrimination at the college. Students of color shared painful experiences of being marginalized and of feeling invisible yet hyper-exposed.

Democracy is alive at Amherst College, but barely.

Many students on campus have been following the presidential primary race religiously. But few students have any idea what is going on with Amherst’s own student government.

There is no point to having a democratic system if the people it aims to serve do not actively involve themselves in carrying out its functions. AAS meetings are open to the public — yet it’s rare to see non-senators at a meeting. Any student can run for senate — yet each year many senate races are uncontested.

It’s that time of the semester again. Essays, exams and thesis deadlines are coming up fast before the finals push, with internships and job pressures occupying the rest of any remaining free space in most students’ minds. You start wondering whether your hall mates and close friends, who you used to see every day, frankly still attend this school. These last four to five weeks of the semester are composed of repetitions of “We should catch up soon” and “Let’s grab Val together sometime,” but so often those phrases are empty sentiments.

Last week, a 26-year-old student at Umpqua Community College shot an assistant professor and eight students with automatic weapons and, after being wounded by police, fatally shot himself. In his statement to the press, President Obama acknowledged that this is becoming all too common in America. “Somehow this has become routine,” he said. After the attacks at Columbine and Sandy Hook, two of the most famous of school shootings in this country, this was the latest shooting to shock the nation into a state of sadness, unease and frustration.

In the last few years, the Amherst community has made incredible strides in the campus-wide conversation about mental health. The administration has renewed a full-time position for mental health awareness and education for Jessica Gifford, who endorses and finances a team of effective student initiatives. The wellness fair has become more prominent and has featured more groups every semester. There’s hardly a student who doesn’t try to sign up for the massages in Keefe during finals.

It’s common wisdom among college graduates and seniors who think they know better that if you don’t study abroad, you’ll regret it. “Are you going to study abroad?” is a common question among Amherst sophomores and juniors. If the answer is yes, no one thinks twice. But if a student decides to stay at Amherst for both semesters, he’s consistently told that it’s the wrong decision, that he’ll regret losing an opportunity he’ll never have again. While studying abroad is certainly a fantastic opportunity, so is each of our semesters at Amherst.

“What do you want to major in?” is a ubiquitous question among first-years during their first few months at Amherst. It’s one of those classic orientation conversation starters, like “Where are you from?” and “What dorm are you in?” The responses to the major question are always varied, but it’s striking how often they come in twos — whether it’s history and economics, Spanish and math or LJST and religion.