In the aftermath of the two articles regarding sexual misconduct on campus, first Dana Bolger’s about the TD t-shirt, and then, yesterday, Angie Epifano’s emotional article concerning her experiences on campus, there has been an outcry from the student body. Please, do not misunderstand my intentions in this commentary; these articles, these experiences, they deserve shock and they deserve outrage.
However, I believe the outcry has been too focused on what the administration can and cannot do for us as students. Yes, some of their policies are ludicrous and I believe they need to change just as much as the next student. But I also believe that we need to look inside of ourselves. We need to hold ourselves accountable for making this campus, and this community, a better place.
Frequently I have conversations with fellow students about “Amherst Awkward,” and no one can seem to pinpoint why it exists. So why should it? On a campus as small as ours it should be normal to start a conversation with someone whose name you might not yet know. Smiling and saying hi don’t require any effort at all; they should be the norm. I will admit, some days I don’t have a smile for anyone, sometimes not even for myself, and when you’re having one of those days you have to hope that someone else can pick you up. Why can’t it be a stranger?
And I know, all the smiles in the world don’t stop bad things from happening, but if we all tried just a little bit harder not to be so damn awkward, I think we would find that our community, that Amherst College, would be stronger for it. If we learn to hold ourselves accountable for strengthening our community, it will be a better place.