Barefoot in Swem: A harrowing tale of discomfort


When I first arrived at the College of William and Mary, upperclassmen clued me into many of the interesting and offbeat things that go on at this school — whether that be the aggressive squirrels that run rampant on the trails or the colonial reenactors who sometimes pop up on campus. Yet nobody warned me about the frequency with which people walk around Earl Gregg Swem Library without wearing any shoes.

Since I have only been a student at the College for less than two months, my time at Swem has been somewhat limited. Yet nearly every time I enter the library, my eyes are assaulted by the sight of someone going completely barefoot.

I’m not just talking about people who might occasionally slip their sock-covered feet out of their rainboots while sitting in a comfortable armchair on the second floor; the problem is much more severe than that.

In fact, I have seen several students walking around with absolutely no socks or shoes on their feet. People get up to plug in their laptops, to print out a paper or even to take a stroll across the first floor to go to Swemromas totally shoeless.

This is disturbing to me for a number of reasons. First, it is always rather unpleasant to see a person’s bare feet, no matter how well-manicured those feet might be. Then, there is the issue of hygiene. Not only is this practice unsanitary for others who might walk around on the same floor afterward but also for the barefoot people themselves due to potential contraction of bacterial or fungal infections.

I just fail to see how the risk could be worth the reward in this scenario. Is the momentary relief of sliding your feet out of your shoes really worth the potential health hazards that go along with ambling through a very busy public place like Swem?

Finally, there is the problem of common decency. Kicking up your bare feet in the middle of a library, where people are trying to concentrate on their studies, shows a lack of respect for the space of others. Especially on a college campus, where there is already such a small amount of privacy, it is rather rude to impose on other people even further by acting as if the public library is your own personal space. I really do understand the temptation to kick off your shoes. If you’re going to be stuck in the library on a Sunday afternoon completing hours of calculus problem sets or literary analysis, you want to be as comfortable as possible. I am here to propose a solution.

Wear your regular boots or sneakers to Swem and bring a pair of slippers, moccasins or flip-flops to change into if you ever begin to feel the urge to go barefoot. These shoes will provide a good deal of comfort and coziness while also ensuring that you respect the personal space and hygiene of others.

Swem is not your living room. In fact, it’s not even your dorm. So please, for the love of all that is good and sanitary in this world, stop going barefoot there.

Email Kimberly Lores at



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