Free advice for all: sophomore Evan Butler stands on campus walk offering ‘free advice’
By Christina Lambert
Sophomore Evan Butler puts on a pair of cargo shorts, grabs a sign that says “Free Advice,” and makes his way to campus walk.
He is eager to help the Mary Washington community and wants to talk to as many people as possible.
Butler, a hard-working biology major, takes time out of his Friday afternoons to offer advice to anyone who seeks it.
He stands on campus walk from 1 to 3 p.m. Although he is usually alone, sometimes his friends keep him company; one of them even stands with a “Free Bad Advice” sign.
Throughout the course of a few hours, Butler gives advice to an estimated 30 people at a time, a mixture of students, professors, and even visiting families.
Parents sometimes approach Butler with questions about the school. However the majority of Butler’s clients, who are students, have a wide range of questions.
When a passerby asked him what he gave advice for, Butler said, “Anything! Everything!”
Butler encourages anyone to approach, no matter what his or her situation. “I get a lot of ‘what should I do’ questions, like ‘should I go to class,’ ‘what should I eat for lunch,’ ‘what should I do tonight.’”
“A lot of people need relationship advice,” Butler said.
A recent question posed to Butler was to think about which faculty member should go on a trip with the radio station to Chicago in a couple of weeks. Fast on his feet, Butler immediately chose Steven Davies, a computer science professor who has a beard and reminds him of Jim Carrey.
In the seven weeks since Butler started giving free advice, hundreds of community members and visitors have taken advice from him. Some have even come back for more advice, and Butler welcomes this.
“It’s turned out great so far. I’ll definitely continue, even when the weather changes. I will always be outdoors, never indoors,” said Butler. “I’ll never charge.”
Butler just wants to help people.
“What happened to good old-fashioned personal interaction?” Butler said.
Butler thinks there is too much texting and Internet use that hinders face-to-face contact. He wants to help restore open communication by taking the time to really get to know people.
“Some people come up to me and we end up talking for like an hour. It’s a great way to make new friends,” said Butler. “Some people come up to me and introduce themselves. I’m generally easy to talk to.”
Having in-depth conversations with people also helps Butler give better advice.
“I always try and ask questions. It’s from their perspective and I always listen,” said Butler. “If they ask I’ll give them a hug.”
Butler has faced some tough questions. His hardest question yet was when someone asked him “How do we know we exist?”
Butler explained that we exist in different forms over time. But after having time to think it over, Butler said, “She should ask me for advice again because I have a better answer now.”
After seven weeks on the job Butler already has big plans for the future, such as his own free advice radio show and a free advice hotline. In the short run, he still plans to continue standing outside and listening to whoever wants to talk with him.