For instance, a few friends and I went to Smith College this past Friday night. We were invited to a party and figured we would check it out, expecting it to be different, but not that different. The lucky ones actually got past the militant guards, while others got stuck at the door. Saying that security was tight would not be doing a justice to the fine job that the Smith Gestapo, I mean police, were doing. I was expecting a big hoopla when I finally got on the dance floor, but no. There was just a bunch of people dancing. The room wasn’t even filled to half of its capacity.
So I asked my Smith friend why the security was so strict when there was hardly anyone at the party. She explained that the people running the party didn’t want it to get out of hand and didn’t want “sketchy” people coming to the party. I didn’t believe her explanation, considering the hostility I faced upon my arrival. The root of the hostility had to involve some deeper issue. I figured it was a dislike for outsiders; and, being males, we were clear outsiders and would thus be subjected to the animosity of the people running the party.
Maybe I am overreacting a little. After all, we did get into the party. I had fun and with some effort we met a lot of nice people from some of the other schools. But I still think that something about the way the colleges are set up should be changed. When people from the other schools come here, we shouldn’t treat them with disrespect or total indifference. It’s a pain to come here from Smith or Mt. Holyoke (Hampshire and UMass, not quite as much, although still, a hassle), and I think that students here should understand that a little better. When you are going out, you want to have a good time. You don’t want to have to face physical barriers, such as not being able to get into a party. But even more so, you don’t want to face the scrutiny of other people at the party just because you don’t go to the school.
In another example, students at Amherst were to blame for the hostile reaction. I was at a party here a few weeks ago and saw a girl from Mt. Holyoke crying. She said that some other girls had teased and harassed her and her friends. This is ridiculous. These girls just came here to have fun. When they left, they probably had a very negative opinion about our school and the people who go here. That’s unacceptable. Unless these girls were obnoxious or mean, why be hostile?
I would like to think that these two examples are not the norm. I’ve met plenty of people who are welcoming to people from other colleges. In the past, when I visited my high school friends at UMass, I’ve witnessed both situations. The success of the night is often directly related to whether I feel welcome or not. I bet that I am not the only one who feels this way.
This brings me to my original hesitation about writing the article. These stories might simply be isolated incidents. This article may only ring true for a few people, not for the majority. But based on what I’ve seen, I know that animosity exists between the five colleges.
Philip Boulay ’07 expresses a sentiment felt by many here at Amherst. “Having the other colleges around provides alternatives to a social scene that can otherwise become repetitive and stifling. We shouldn’t alienate others who come to party here,” he said. I couldn’t agree more. What if I wanted to go to another one of the five colleges one Saturday night, only to be turned away because of where I go to school? The difficulty that I faced at Smith College should not be the norm. Yet, I fear that it might be.
The fact that it takes a long time to get from school to school (Amherst-UMass not included) exacerbates this problem. If people from the different colleges felt a certain camaraderie towards other students who go to school in the same area, they might behave differently towards each other when they interact. Yes, it is idealistic and cheesy, and no, it probably won’t happen in the future, but I feel that more communication, and maybe more inter-college events, might bridge the gap a little bit.
When I see people act blatantly mean and unwelcoming, it begs the question, “What is the point of the hostility?” Maybe it’s something territorial-you’re on my turf, so I can be tough. This is a natural reaction, but it is not the only one. Being welcoming and friendly is just as easy a response, and it makes people feel more comfortable. In the end, it is better for everyone involved.
One of the best assets of attending Amherst is having the resources of the other four schools. They shouldn’t be neglected or under-appreciated. If people felt more comfortable at the other schools, then there would be more of this idealistic camaraderie that I previously mentioned. A lot of that comfort has to do with the interactions people have had while on the other campuses.
Here is what I propose: When you go out, forget where other people go to school. Everyone is at the party for the same reason: to have fun. Try to lose certain pretensions and just enjoy yourself. Ideally, there wouldn’t be a need for such confrontational security, but that’s not a realistic possibility. But having fun, regardless of gender or what your ID card says, certainly is.