While Amherst students rued the unfortunate cancellation of Farm Fest this past week, students at two of our fellow Five Colleges, Smith and Mount Holyoke, enjoyed a particularly exciting treat in the form of Mountain Day.
For those not in the know, Mountain Day is a tradition held by a couple of different colleges across the U.S. wherein classes, extracurriculars, and other responsibilities are canceled without warning and students climb whatever mountain is convenient and relatively close to their campuses. While Mountain Day is named for and centered around this climb, the colleges that celebrate it treat it as a day to engage in outdoor activities in general: Smith encourages apple picking and picnicking opportunities, Mount Holyoke serves ice cream on the mountain, and Williams has had all-campus picnics and polar bear swims.
Considering that two of the Five Colleges and our dearest rival have Mountain Day, why don’t we? You obviously don’t need a mountain to hold Mountain Day (re: Smith) — and besides, we’re the College on the Hill, in the middle of a Pioneer Valley filled with extremely hikeable mountains.
For a campus so surrounded by beautiful natural landmarks, Amherst’s culture is remarkably inward-looking, and the majority of students spend most of their time within the Amherst bubble. It is too common a phenomenon for students here to look up from their notebooks and realize that they haven’t left campus proper in four weeks — we often marinate in the pressures and stresses of campus, and the repetitiveness of our travels between class, dorm, and dining hall only exacerbate academic burnout. A physical relocation, with new sights and sounds and smells, is often surprisingly and enormously beneficial for a person’s psyche. Mountain Day would give students a chance not only to purposely break out of that bubble, but to reconnect themselves with the natural landscape in a way that many students, the Editorial Board included, just don’t feel able to justify with our busy schedules.
The unscheduled nature of Mountain Day is particularly important here. If we had a scheduled day off, many people would surely plan out hangouts with their friends or work they’re planning to do or events to go to in advance before they would consider school-sponsored outside time. But the unexpected nature of Mountain Day encourages widespread participation in the festivities, allowing more people to actually get outside. Moreover, there is a kind of symbolic power to summiting a mountain, and a change in perspective that makes all of our homework seem so much smaller, so much farther away. Up in the clouds, the worldly concerns weighing on us may disappear.
Mountain Day brings students in touch with nature and helps build community among the student body — after all, what’s more of a bonding experience than climbing a mountain with several of your peers? There are so few events that we as a campus participate in collectively, and Mountain Day is an opportunity to bring the student body closer together. Also, the Pioneer Valley is arguably at its best in the fall: just consider all the fun fall activities to do here.
While the logistics of Mountain Day may seem daunting at first, we can easily follow our fellow colleges’ approaches. Amherst could provide shuttles to the mountain, as Mount Holyoke does, and those who would rather carpool on their way there could choose to do so. From there, students could choose to hike up the mountain or continue with the shuttle to the top, if they had accessibility concerns or simply didn't enjoy hiking. Depending on the mountain we pick, Amherst could also create activities and events centered around the day: Mount Tom, for instance, has its own ice cream shop near the bottom as a fun reward for triumphant students, but for those who would rather have little to do with the mountain, there could be shuttles to other outdoorsy activities, like apple picking, rafting, a brunch picnic, and many more.
Considering the uproar in the aftermath of the cancellation of Farm Fest, it’s obvious that Amherst students do appreciate nature when it’s accessible for them. Mountain Day would undeniably be a success. And — let’s be real — there are so few campus-wide Amherst traditions that the entire school truly takes part in. Let’s grab some inspiration from our fellow schools and make some of our own.
Unsigned editorials represent the views of the majority of the Editorial Board — (assenting: 22; dissenting: 0; abstaining: 0).