It’s fair to generalize and say that many members of the faculty, administration and student body were disappointed by the cancellation of the winter carnival. Although we all laughed at the Muck-Rake article “Winter Carnival Postponed Due to Winter,” the response mainly masked our frustration. In the current Amherst social scene, the carnivals set up by Biddy and the administration are the closest things we have to campus-wide traditions. Yet, not only can these events be undependable despite fairly predictable weather conditions, the carnivals do little to actually unite our campus. People come and leave with their friends, separating only to grab food. Although they’re a step in the right direction and provide a fun break from our work for the week, these seasonal carnivals aren’t enough fill the void on our campus for traditions that actively cultivate community. Yet unfortunately, they’re the best and only communal tradition we have at the moment.
Lately, traditions at Amherst have gotten a bad rap. Despite many effective arguments for its removal due to its racially offensive nature, the Lord Jeff mascot defenders have generally held their ground by “defending tradition.” Those who care to dig into the archives will find that the baseball team performed a minstrel show as a tradition for around half a century.
College traditions can carry a great stigma or become a positive tool for further inclusion of new students with upperclassmen or alumni. Traditions undoubtedly define the student experience at Amherst and inform the wider perception of our community. At many colleges and universities, especially those with house systems, there are yearly traditions to welcome first-years into the wider community as an opportunity to meet and bond with upperclassmen and peers instantly. Stanford, for example, has a “Full Moon on the Quad” tradition in which seniors kiss first-years at midnight under the first full moon of the fall quarter. Keefe Campus Center Night, while fun, doesn’t exactly cut it. Voices of the Class is hilarious, but it’s more of an anonymous roast rather than a chance for the community to come together and make meaningful connections.
It’s time that the campus community acknowledges the limited chances we have to actually come together and be proud of Amherst. While initiatives such as social clubs are attempting to fill this void, attempts to divide up campus create smaller groups that still result in students feeling disconnected from a larger community that includes alums, faculty and administration. We need a yearly tradition that forces students to meet new people and realize the scope of our community. A mountain day or community hour could fulfill this requirement beautifully. Simply put, it’s time for the Amherst community to come together and leave something behind to make the students who will inhabit the dorms after us happy and proud.