I miss the A-Level

By Ryan Vass

I remember the days when all-nighters weren’t that painful. I remember when you could type for a few hours, take a Twix break, and go commiserate with your friends at another table. I remember when people would build “study forts” out of pillows and sheets in the group study carrels, or when people in those carrels would soar through an econ set on the wings of Jack Daniels. I remember the choreographed dances on the Sunday night before finals, followed by the streaking track team, a circus of skinny-ass bodies parading around laughing tables full of students. I even remember my really, really drunk friend deciding at three in the morning that he would attempt to flirt with every single girl still studying in that special place—and succeeding with grand flourish (he got one girl’s attention by crawling under a table and pulling on her feet). Wistfully, I remember the A-level.

It has been six months of life sans the 24-hour A-level, and it would not be a stretch to say that the school has lost one of its major centers of student life. This is not a sad statement about student life at this school, but rather an acknowledgement that friendships were forged and moods improved when that epic research paper could be written in company at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday. That those happy tables were replaced by stacks containing more useless dissertations is, I suppose fitting—this is the school that built a library on top of its famed football field. Yet this time it’s gone too far and has actually made this school worse off—it is time we move the 24-hour space back where it belongs.

I mean, let’s face it: Crerar just sucks as an alternative. Its pale, flickering fluorescent lights make the lifeless, sun-starved zombies who populate it appear even more dangerously pale, and the few undergrads who do venture into the “24-hour space” are continually distracted by the stench of un-showered med student. If these undergrads are unfortunate enough to break the monastic silence, a series of heads turn mechanically, like a room full of anemic Chucky dolls; however, unlike the dolls, the nutrient-starved bodies attached to these heads lack the muscle mass to even raise a knife. Rather, the wilting hermits of Crerar leer at the poor undergrad not out of angered distraction, but out of a morbid curiosity to see what grisly fate awaits him for daring to receive a text message or take a bite from his room-temperature meatball sandwich. It is as though they know that some disgruntled chemistry grad student waits in an undisclosed location and fires blowdarts into the necks of silence-violators. I don’t know this for sure, but a disgruntled chemistry student did set fire to several buildings, probably because she spent too much time at Crerar and/or can’t believe her university still supports genocide.

To the (sigh) already-embattled President Zimmer: if you indeed feel that quality of life at this school could use a boost, then start with the decision to move the 24-hour study space from Crerar back to the Reg. You would be a hero to many—I personally would hang your life-sized poster on my bedroom wall, next to Che Guevara and those kissing twins. The A-level made studying fun—Crerar has the joie de vivre of a morgue that does not contain Anna Nicole Smith.

I understand that storage space for those extra books is indeed a real problem; in that case, move the study space to the first floor of the Reg until the A-level is ready again. The Reg first floor is airy and open, with tables for group work, space for private studying, couches for reading, and computers for facebooking. It brings the 24-hour space back to the center of campus, near Bart-mart (which waited until after the A-level was unceremoniously discarded to expand their hours to 3 am). It is not as though this would add a tremendous extra cost because the Reg gets shut down at night—to the contrary, the Reg’s lights are on all night, and there is even a guy at the desk until 8 am. Why not take the man who normally manages the undergrad study space at Crerar (and used to do so on the A-level), and ask him to do the same job on the first floor of the Reg? For a minimal cost, the student body would once again have a convivial place to gather and finish assignments as the sun rises.

It is tragic how raw a deal the undergraduates got, since Crerar already was 24-hours for med and grad students. Now that the “24-hour-study space for undergrads” has been moved to Crerar, probably three undergraduates per night actually utilize it, all of them premeds. This lack of use is largely because there is no talking or group work and it is on the sketchy far corner of campus. The end result: Undergrads lose their all-night study space completely. It is time we restore the jovial spirit of the 24-hour study space and bring it back to the Reg—even if it must stay on the first floor for the time being.

Fun does not come to die at UChicago in general, but its rotting carcass is beginning to stink up the puke-salmon-colored carpets of Crerar. Or maybe that’s just the grad students.