As Warren Wilson College becomes a serene, less populated campus during its week-long break, Oct. 17-21, the near-glimmering gold of the fall sun through the leaves reflects not only the transition of the season but changes within the unique work college itself.
This is the last year for college President Sandy Pfeiffer, while it is the first for monthly community meetings between students, faculty and staff. Last month’s meeting concerned dialogue about religious and spiritual diversity on campus (a response to Pres. Obama’s interfaith and multicultural challenge), while October’s meeting involved ice cream and conversation about the college’s new governance structure.
As new staff — like 2011-2012 Beebe Fellow Rachel Howard (Creative Writing) and Yamuna Kollalpitiya (Biochemistry) — familiarize themselves with the tones and colors of Wilson’s hectic triad culture, this year also marks the last for reputable Wilson legends like the popular and sunny-faced Dusty Benedict, who has taught at Wilson for 32 years, or the head of the Theater Department’s costume shop, Bev Ohler, who has helped produce and visually fine-tune plays for the past 50.
As for the students of Wilson, they either fled like fervid chipmunks to homes, hopped onto the white space-ship-looking buses for service trips, or stayed behind to watch leaves float aimlessly, to finally close their coffee-shot eyelids and dream a little. Or work. For the students who are still on campus, many are employed on crews for special one-week contracts, and seniors push through their final projects before graduation.
Although Wilson students are accustomed to having jobs throughout their undergraduate careers, what will happen when they, and all college students graduating within the coming year, do when released into a faltering business-focused economy that has spurred millions to gather on the streets within the past month in energetic mass protests like Occupy Asheville?
As Pres. Obama waved and squinted his way through a brief Asheville airport stint on Monday’s agreeably warm morning, Oct. 17, addressing our country’s non-sunny job situation, college students and many young adults in general are becoming increasingly vocal about our country’s labor and economic structure.
Many Wilson students have been sleeping on our local Wall Street and thereabouts for Occupy Asheville during the night and returning to class and work in the morning bleary-eyed, but enthralled and proud to be a part of this movement. Several of these students are even going to the nexus of the internationally-expanding phenomenon in New York.
Our descent into change is inevitable, but when things resist change and don’t have nature’s ability to transform it, it is up to the people to come together and bring this country into a new season.
photo by Josh Reiss