This post is intended to be the beginning of a conversation about campus social life leading up to this coming Sunday’s conversation with President Liebowitz. While the conversation over the past month has focused predominantly on alcohol policy, other pieces of campus life, such as exclusivity, must be taken into account as well. Students talk frequently to a perceived clickiness, and social division in the student body. This post hopes to open up discussion regarding potential avenues for inclusivity. Please comment, argue, and expand on the conversation below.
One of the things I think I miss most about the school I transferred from, Wesleyan University, is Foss Hill, the center piece of the campus geography. Whether it was through pure geological luck, or the careful crafting of campus designers, it was one of the few places on campus where you would either intentionally leave the comforts of your dorm to hang out with friends, or accidentally end up engaged in a conversation, smoking a joint, or playing frisbee with. It was equidistant from pretty much everywhere on campus, it was big enough not to be merely a corridor between classes, open enough so that 100 people could each be with their small group of friends without being overheard by others, and had the added bonus of being part of a social contract that eschewed oversight or supervision from the administration. If you stood in the middle of the hill on a particularly nice day, you could see students rolling a joint, doing their homework, sunbathing, doing yoga, walking to class, playing music, engaging in student activism throwing a frisbee, playing football, reciting poetry, napping, and hooking up simply by turning a circle.
While there are comparable spaces on Midd’s campus, namely Battell Beach, I have always felt the lack of a place like this on campus that drew students in like a magnet, and pacified them enough so that they’d stay and allow themselves ten minutes of devoted decompression. There’s no place that occupies your periphery while walking across campus where you can count on students being for a broad array of reasons that do not simply involve eating, working, and sleeping. A place hat beckons you to sit down and allow for the constant pulse of activity that drives this campus fade away if for only a short while.
Past posts of this type have called for the creation of some new communal space that students could truly call their own. Rather than creation, here I call for designation. Designating a space on campus where students go to do whatever it is they want to do in the presence of other students. It increasingly appears to be a consensus on campus that Crossroads, for all of its wonderful qualities (coffee, pool, big screen, trivia night, sushi, the grille, concerts), often feels somewhat alienating and institutional. Many view the dining halls as the optimal community spots, but I cannot say that I have seen people do much more than eat, work, and talk within the walls of Proctor, Ross, and Atwater. Battell Beach may be the closest thing we have to an optimal community space, but as one whose life is generally confined to the south side of campus, I rarely pass through.