Polarized? Midd's social scene is debunked Social groups on campus called out so, ask yourself, where do you fit in?

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Dicky Redmond

This past weekend I traveled down to Amherst College to celebrate my cousin’s 21st birthday. Both day and evening were packed with fun events a football tailgate on a beautiful fall day, a French dinner at one of the town’s finest restaurants and a celebratory birthday-bash at a nearby “underground frat” (Amherst’s social house equivalent). My one-day excursion seemed, at the moment, to be reminiscent of any Saturday at Middlebury College, but it was not until I returned to campus that I realized there was something very different the social cliques had an entirely different structure.

The birthday party at the social house was full of different personalities. There were jocks, but they were not from the same team. There were artsy kids, but they were participating in all of those celebrated fratty traditions. There were hippies, but they were grooving to the latest Brittney Spears jam.

Thinking back, I wondered if these groups would ever converge at a Middlebury party? While there are exceptions to every rule, I answered myself with a general “no,” and concluded that Middlebury has a very bifurcated social structure. There are the athletes who host righteous bashes, there are the artsy kids who attend trippy parties at The Mill and there are the outdoorsy kids (the extreme dudes) who enjoy laid-back get-togethers that seem to be sponsored by Vermont’s most prestigious microbreweries.

At first I thought myself narrow-minded for holding such generalized perceptions of the Middlebury social scene. However, it was after having several conversations with various people that I realized the accuracy of my description. Lacrosse player Zach Harwood ’10 said, “I mostly socialize in the Atwater suites with my team.” When asked about The Mill, he responded, “I don’t really know how to think of it. I’ve never really been there, but I hear it’s pretty strange.” This seems to be normal at Middlebury hanging with the team. There are various reasons, I think, for why teams fraternize in the way they do.

“I think that the strong bonds that the players form off the field help them perform better on the field. It might also be the absence of frats or the lack of significant social house participation. Teams fill that void, and I think that is, in a way, necessary.” Katherine Gura ’10 commented. Either way, athletes certainly constitute a large part of the social scene at Middlebury.

Spawning from the opposite end of the spectrum come the alternative crowds. It seems that part of this end was created almost in rebellion to the athletic, fratty scene – a definitive counter-culture. “I have the best times at small gatherings since people can talk instead of grinding in the sweaty social houses,” said Dave Small ’09. “I think the Mill is the most fun social house since it has good bands playing. I also like to try to hang out with different people. I don’t really go to many ‘team’ parties, but I do have friends that are athletes.” Other students echoed Small’s view of social life.

“Honestly, I haven’t spent more than 15 minutes at a party this year – actually more like 30,” said Haik Kavookjian ’09. “I feel like the football team is the least exclusive team, while the lacrosse and hockey teams seem to have a stronger clique.”

According to some students the social houses did not seem to be a popular commodity at college. Some students seemed turned off by what they saw as an unsafe atmosphere at the houses. “The only places where we need blue lights are in the social houses,” Israel Carr ’09 added with humor.

The last remaining part of the social spectrum is more ambiguous, and it is the grey area (the space in between the alternative and sporty poles). These people do not commit either way. Instead, they embody what is present in both sides of the social extremes.

“I like to socialize wherever people seem to be enjoying themselves the most. I like to mix things up. I don’t really like to commit to one social scene. In one way I like hanging with the athletic crowd and in another the artsy crowd,” said Gura.

Out of my many conversations like this one, I was able to gather a similar perspective ≠- in general, people feel the polar opposites might be at odds a little bit too much – stuck in their comfort zone and absorbed in their scene. This inevitably leads to various flaws, mostly because the groups think they are the best in some way. The hippies, for example, may boast to know more about Trey Anastasio’s face melting solos than anyone else, and therefore are better for it. In the same vein, the athletes might make someone feel uncomfortable or out of place at a gathering by acting raucously and bombastic, and the artsy crowds might sometimes be too captious. However, this might be the way people are inclined to act.

“Each group has their own faults, but that’s the way things are,” said Sam Dungan ’10. “No grouping of people can ever be perfect.”

Maybe these groups should exist – maybe that’s the way things work out best. Some students have decided to resist committing to any one group in order to prevent being identified as belonging to a certain group. “I like to hang out with different people and I try to keep an open mind when I go out,” said Elianna Kan ’10.

Maybe I am too quick to judge the social scene at Middlebury. Come junior and senior year, people may mature and grow out of their comfortable cliques. While at Amherst I was hanging out with mostly juniors and seniors. However, I would love to attend a party at Middlebury, similar to the one mentioned earlier, where there are a diverse set of personalities. I think people should take the mentality of a man much wiser than myself, Jeff Spicoli, who wisely said, “Hey bud, let’s party.”