“I live in Willets.”
“I’m so sorry for you.” That’s the response I usually get. Mention my dorm and I get comments about never-ending noise, the smell of certain medicinal plants, and the lack of A.C. And to be completely fair, those are occasional issues that pop up. But is living in Willets a reason to pity me? Absolutely not.
I genuinely enjoy living in Willets and, though my perspective may be limited considering that I am both a freshman and also too busy to formulate too many complaints, I am more than willing to offer a qualified defense of my building.
As someone who has to sleep eight hours a night or else becomes incapable of expressing intelligent thought for the next 24 hours, the prospect of being assigned to Willets scared me. The only things I knew were that the administration tried to quash the name “Thrillets” and anecdotal reports that the building was taken off of tours due to reports of parents getting contact highs. But the reality is somewhat different than the mythos this building has created. Is Willets noisy at night? No. Thursdays and Saturdays usually have a small amount of noise until 11 and on other nights, it’s quiet enough that I have not had trouble sleeping. Does it smell like what my 8th grade health teacher called “the Devil’s lettuce?” Sometimes. The smell, however, is never overpowering and not dissimilar to what can be smelled in, say, anywhere in downtown Philadelphia or even certain parts of Crum Woods.
As for the actual building, Willets is more than decent, despite valid complaints about the lack of air conditioning, which is also true of most dorm buildings, and the sometimes questionable cleanliness of the bathrooms. 9PSA: please clean up after yourself if you wash your hair in the sink.) The rooms are spacious, and mine in particular has an amazing window view of the Scott Arboretum headquarters. Unlike Dana and Hallowell, my hallway does not look like the twisting labyrinthine residence of Minos and is is always clean. The kitchens are functional and the laundry works well. Mephistos’ lounge is a nice place to hang out with friends and play pool or just use an HDMI and play FIFA on the TV. But the best feature of the Willets building by far is its location: Willets is close to the classrooms of north campus. I can literally wake up at 8:20 and be early to my 8:30 class. According to my phone, I need to walk three minutes to go to McCabe, five minutes to Sharples and four minutes to Parrish Hall. I can be off-campus in thirty seconds and in Kohlberg in three minutes. I think it’s safe to say that perhaps with the exception of Parrish, no other dorm at Swarthmore has such a great location.
Of course, the reason Willets is (in)famous is its social life, not the building itself. I am not a party person. But even so, the life in Willets is the best feature of living there. As I wrote this, it is10:30 P.M. and I am sitting in my lounge, surrounded by twenty people who are studying while eating food from Essie’s and listening to “Africa” by Toto. At any time of day, I can go somewhere and talk to a friend. From 8 A.M. Mephistos’ breakfasts to informal 1 P.M. lounge gatherings (replete with homemade brownies) and 11:30 P.M. tea parties at my neighbor’s dorm, it’s hard to be lonely at Willets. Even so, whenever I want to be alone, I can go to my dorm and relax without too much noise outside. As a freshman, having nearly a quarter of my class share the same building as me is a plus and has helped me make friends and integrate to campus life a lot faster than I would have in another building.
That’s not to say that Willets is a paradisiacal Eden where everyone is happy and all is good. The third floor’s temperature is best described as “oven-like,” the laundries can be crowded, and there seems to be more rodents than the level I find acceptable — which is none. But on the whole, does Willets deserve its reputation? No. It’s probably not the best dorm building, but is it an irredeemable hellscape filled with drunken frat bros stumbling in the hallways at 3 A.M.? Not exactly.