Look! Up in the sky!

It’s a post about SWIL!

After over 48 straight hours of doing no work, I might as well keep my streak going…


First of all, I’ve missed a number of meetings this semester, including the one where the most recent incident occurred. I don’t think I would call this SWIL politics, but rather SWIL sociology, or perhaps SWIL psychology. Interestingly enough, as an engineer, I am completely unqualified to make judgements on these topics :oP. One of the reasons I’ve missed these meetings is that I’m now able to do other activities, like Tau Beta Pi conferences, robotics experiments, SPC retreats, and all-day gaming sessions. An advantage of not being president, I suppose.

I’ve always been in an interesting position with regard to SWIL. First, a number of non-SWILlies are surprised when I mention that I am in SWIL, or even more, was SWILPresident. I guess I don’t fit their SWIL stereotype, which is odd, considering how irrevocably weird I am…

SWIL is definitely one of my groups of friends, but I don’t think I’ve bonded as closely with SWIL as I have with SCCS, or people I know from other organizations, or with my other close friends. I don’t really know why that is. Maybe I just don’t fit the SWIL mold.

I have moved away from SWIL over the last year, and I think that a shift in the population of the organization has been a major cause of that. The serious gamers have graduated, and gaming is one of the big things that attracted me to SWIL. At the same time, the influx of freshman has been largely of people who are interested in writing, which has never been a hobby of mine. Many of them are also obsessed with slash, but that’s probably a rant for another day. Or a rant for never, seeing as how all of my anti-slash actions seem to make the situation worse for me. :oP

One think that has kept me somewhat distant from the SWIL social group is that none of my other friends are interested in getting involved in any SWIL events. I’m talking about my friends who are serious gamers, the ones I play D&D and other games with on a fairly regular basis. I don’t entirely know their reasons, but I gather that it’s a mix of not wanting to be around specific people who happen to be in SWIL, and not wanting to be associated with SWIL, even though they do many of the things that SWIL does.

I do think that a number of people in SWIL do not have the strongest social skills in one or more departments, and the end result is that minor problems can explode into huge (even schismatic) problems. It sounds like Arthur did a small thing that annoyed a small subset of people at the meeting, and this was compounded by a number of tactless reactions from assorted parties, and the end result was that Arthur was completely shot down.

It seems like meetings have gotten more chaotic than they were last year, and I would attribute that to the larger attendance. It’s just that much harder to deal with side conversations, objections, proposals, etc. when there are more of them. I’ve taken a seminar on how good meetings work, but I think most of the techniques are a little (or a lot) too formal for SWILMeeting. “Tipping the baton”, for example. I don’t know how to “fix” SWILMeeting.

As for the exclusivity of SWIL, I think that SWIL is exclusive by nature, not by design. What SWIL is just isn’t for everyone, so they’re not going to participate in SWIL events. Obviously all of our events are open, but I think the average Swattie would choose not to attend most of those events, no matter who was running them. The fact that we are SWIL (complete with our bad reputation on campus) probably turns off the rest of the non-SWILlies who would be potentially interested. For example, JC and I planning to have a Diplomacy game during finals, but I doubt that we will grab the interest of any of the non-SWIL Diplomacy players. I don’t know what causes this.

As for our campus reputation, I don’t think that there’s an easy fix. I’m not going to consider “be less weird”, because that wouldn’t make sense, and I’m not even sure it would even work. It would also be completely hypocritical. I mean, just look at me. Look at my last 10 LJ posts. You get the idea ;o). There may be something specific to SWIL’s weirdness that scares away generally weird Swatties; I have absolutely no clue what that is.

What it basically comes down to is that I have the impression that there is something wrong with SWIL that is fixable, but that I don’t know how to fix it without completely changing our identity as an organization.

Against The Wind” from Forrest Gump by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

6 comments on “Look! Up in the sky!
  1. antimony says:

    (okay, I saw the bob seger song in your “music” listing and had to use that subject.)

    I’ll make the controversial statement that: if SWIL has enough members that it isn’t in danger of dying out, does it matter if everyone who’d enjoy SWIL-like events is in SWIL? Some Swatties are tired of being the weirdest person around, and thus avoid SWIL. Others don’t get along with some people — SWIL generally prides itself on not excluding people who are, uh, deficient in social graces, and while I think that’s a good thing, the clueless can frighten off those who were already hesitant.

    Second, I’ll point out that crops of swillies have always had odd obsessions, with the new groups annoying/alienating the old groups somewhat. Evidently slash is the current fad — a bit of a swing from the somewhat asexual turn the general SWIL climate took a few years ago, when, say, people didn’t know how to answer the “freshman question” at Truth or Dare because they weren’t attracted to people at all. (The freshman question was and probably still is: name three swatties you think are hot/cute/whatever.) I’m pretty sure you and I have opposite ideas on whether this swing was a good thing, but it’s a pendulum that has swung back and forth in SWIL several times.

    And there have been cliques within SWIL (and cliques that overlap partially), etc. It happens, and SWIL has survived. I think the most interesting dynamics-change that has occurred is the increased importance of [CHAT] and alumni involvement — SWIL suddenly got a *lot* bigger-feeling when [CHAT] really took off, without gaining more current-student members.

  2. arctangent says:

    There’s a perception on campus that SWIL is not just a weird group of people but an exclusivist weird group of people; other weird groups are organized around specific activities and identities. Folkdancers, well, folk dance; knit-wits knit; SPACcers organized protests; SCDCers distribute open-source software; SCCSers maintain a computer network; College Bowlers college bowl; even SWIL spinoffs like Third Wing and SFDT are organized around a central activity that one can have chops in without being a long-term member of the group, and lots of people stay involved in Third Wing (and in the future may become involved with SFDT) without really getting into SWIL.

    SWIL is most like the fraternities, as other people have said, and this is both good and bad. SWIL’s a social group that defines itself only by lineage; SWIL does the things that SWIL does. The science-fiction/fantasy connection is now about as weak as DU’s football connection. Lots of people like DU-style activities without hanging out with DU brothers or pledging, because DU is not a club about community service, or wet parties, or watching sports. It’s a social organization.

    You’re in SWIL to participate in a nebulous gestalt of things SWILlies do that is far more determined by the character of existing SWILlies than anything else, and is mostly social-interaction-based. All organizations discriminate based on how well you fit in, but other organizations can blame part of that on their mandate. You fit in the College Democrats for your left-wing views and ability to articulate them as well as for liking the other Democrats. You only fit in in SWIL based on whether you like the other SWILlies.

    This is, like it or not, SWIL’s role on campus, to fill a social niche in the same way DU and Phi Psi do. DU and Phi Psi are by nature never going to be “mainstream”, and neither is SWIL; I’ve gotten the impression that lots of people are upset about this, though. My impression is that part of the social/political agenda this semester is that people wish the low-pressure experience they had upon joining SWIL could somehow spread, absorb more and more of the campus, and so on so that they could be in the school’s mainstream without breaking the SWIL bubble. I don’t particularly like this idea, since I think it only has the potential to weaken what made SWIL special for people who joined it when it was tiny and cloistered and weird. I think, as others have pointed out, it’s *already* becoming uncomfortably large, roomy enough to hold factions, and that this isn’t making SWIL-the-institution a better or more useful organization.

  3. rabican says:

    I’ve always been in an interesting position with regard to SWIL. First, a number of non-SWILlies are surprised when I mention that I am in SWIL, or even more, was SWILPresident. I guess I don’t fit their SWIL stereotype, which is odd, considering how irrevocably weird I am…

    Ha! I feel your pain.

  4. I don’t think I would call this SWIL politics, but rather SWIL sociology, or perhaps SWIL psychology.

    Yes.
    Referring to SWIL social problems as SWIL politics seems like an almost pathological example of what’s wrong with SWIL. And yet, it seems to be the default term.

  5. god_of_belac says:

    I’ve spent much time trying to get to know non-SWIL interesting folk. Could you introduce me to some? (And give me the diplomacy people’s emails again?)

  6. psocoptera says:

    Cannot… resist…
    “even SWIL spinoffs like Third Wing and
    SFDT are organized around a central activity that one can have chops
    in without being a long-term member of the group, and lots of people
    stay involved in Third Wing (and in the future may become involved
    with SFDT) without really getting into SWIL”

    Historical nitpick: Third Wing was *not* a “SWIL spinoff”. Quite the opposite, it was a separate organisation that got “assimilated” by SWIL.
    I started Third Wing as a successor organization to a graduating senior’s Galt’s Gulch Objectivist club – Third Wing was to be more generally libertarian-inclusive (since you pretty much get one O’ist every three years at Swat)
    and more friendly and accessible to people who weren’t already well-versed in O’ism/lib’tism.
    Alas, my recruiting attendance among my friends (who were pretty much all SWIL) coincided with or possibly led to diminished interest from some of the non-SWIL people. Which, I mean, people’s patterns of activity involvement totally shift naturally, so I don’t *know* that it had anything to do with it getting associated with SWIL. It very likely did not. But, I guess, I am just kind of defensive about this issue, because while yes it is the case that pretty much I was only ever close friends with SWIL/paraSWILfolk, it doesn’t mean that everything I did was a SWIL thing.

Nurd Up!