Is summer break the cause of Colby’s problems?

As an anthropology student at Colby, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how Colby’s social problems manifest themselves over time and across the campus. This year, in my research off-campus, a Mainer prompted me to think about how living together with a bunch of twenty-somethings might be different than just living in any small community. The first problem is that we all think we’re right, and we don’t have many other kinds of people, age-wise, to challenge us. The second is that we’re not really living together all that long—which got me thinking. Maybe we’d have fewer problems if we couldn’t escape each other. I mean, think about it. We only spend four years together, maximum, and even then, we’re not here the whole year through. Can we really develop a respect for the people, things, and spaces that live around us when we get to abandon them after every four months?

What would happen to dorm vandalism if we had to live in the same dorm for the whole year without a break? Surely, all of our wallets couldn’t handle the continually compounding fines amassing from just the continued exposure to vulnerable exit signs, right? Maybe the year-long school cycle would create a familiarity between us and our dorms so that we could not stand to see a different exit sign in the place of our favorite exit sign.

What about the hookup culture? How long could we stand to walk into a room, wordlessly shimmy up to people and walls and expect that to serve the role of flirting, dancing, arousing, and just casually passing time until it is late enough to passably go home with a person? If I didn’t get to go away every summer and remind myself that physical contact can be both fun and consensual, maybe I might learn to compromise with this Other, Colby culture, which just seems so uncomfortable to me right now. Maybe I might learn, too, how to dance to the same imaginary beat for every song that comes on, and I might feel like I fit in better in the party scene. We might even get tired of the same music and venture into more “exotic” Latin and African beats to dance to!

I know I just equated the party scene with hookup culture. We all know that all of the real work in the hookup culture only, for some reason, happens when most of the campus is half-drunk and obscured in darkness. We might get tired of waiting for that interesting someone to show up in the apartments where we can hide our feelings—I know, that word is contentious—behind loud music and alcohol, and we might start learning how to deal with sexuality in a healthier way. Then again, more time around each other could just mean more exposure to already sexually, and irreparably, deviant people every weekend for an extra 12 weekends.

If we stayed in Maine a little longer, we might get more involved in our communities. By mere virtue of getting bored of the same old campus every day, we might try to resort to extreme measures to get off campus: volunteerism, for one. Colby already does such a commendable job of engaging with Waterville because we care. How much more would it seem that we care, though, if we didn’t abandon our community every summer? The local residents might forget that transports to the hospital and illegal ID cards were ever not the norm. All that is beside the point, though. One of the most important things we could learn from the local communities around us on the Hill could be how to live together for an extended period and not just stand each other for a few months at a time.

The most important reason why we should consider not taking a break from each other here at Colby: we could learn how to care for and about each other in a meaningful way. I’m just considering that maybe more time spent around the people we bump into here might give us time to get to know each other. In getting to know each other, we might realize that we are struggling. The more people I know, the more I care about all of their struggles. The more I know about the struggle, the more I care about all the people in it. It might just be too easy to ignore those struggles around us when we are always within sight of the end.

As a liberal arts institution, we should pride ourselves on actually caring and getting involved in the struggles of those around us. I actually do very much appreciate the break from Colby during the summer, and I don’t think that I should look forward to getting away from a space where I naturally feel uncomfortable. There are few walls on campus that I don’t get along with. I just find it hard to walk across campus and not know the people I am around, especially when we are so few. How can we recognize the same faces and not even have a story to go with them when we all have stories? If we can get to really care about what makes us all different, then maybe we can really start to respect the space we all have in common, and maybe, we can then tackle whiteness, the patriarchy, and anthropocentrism while we’re at it too.