August 12, 2013

Summer Musings: Don’t tread on hallowed ground

An open letter on Hallowed Grounds: The café space occupies an important niche in our school.

It’s a Tuesday night, 9:30 p.m. I’ve got a bit of reading for class tomorrow, but my day is pretty much over. I’ve had a class in Harper and another in Cobb. I met my T.A. for a brief appointment in Ex Libris, then spent a few hours working in the Reg; I went to an RSO meeting in Stuart at six.

Now I’d like to sit back, relax—to finish that reading, but talk a little, too.

Surprisingly, there aren’t a whole lot of places I could go. When I lived on campus I could head back to my house lounge; now that I live off campus I could head home or pay a visit to one of my friends. But I’m not quite ready to turn in. I’d like to stay on campus a while, to see whichever friends of mine are around. I’d like a public space, an open crowd. I’d just like to hang out.

I hope that when autumn quarter rolls around, I will still be able to do all of this in Hallowed Grounds. Like many of my fellow students, I was shocked to learn of ORCSA’s decision to constrict this intimate, irreplaceable campus space. Their plans reveal a blatant disregard for the needs and interests of students, most of whom fervently stand behind the café. And of the few who don’t, I don’t know anyone who can stomach the idea of going forward with such a deeply unpopular decision. The fact that ORCSA is proceeding anyway, while asserting it will somehow be a boon for student life, would be laughable if it weren’t so hauntingly real.

Hallowed Grounds is a place to unwind. To talk about books you read outside of class. To play pool. To sit in lounge chairs. To get some less intensive work done on a Saturday afternoon. To listen to folk music, punk, vintage rock, or live jazz. To crack open a textbook. To have a real conversation.

I can walk into Hallowed and see my old R.A., or another writer, or the physical sciences grad student I met one day when he saw me reading Plato (we were sitting across from each other by a window in a packed Hallowed Grounds). I can make weekend plans, or catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while. I can have informal RSO meetings that are actually informal. I can sit by the fire when it’s winter and it’s cold. I can push chairs together in a circle, or recline on the couch. I can linger.

Hallowed Grounds is the place you go to feel like a college student and a human being.

To be clear: Cobb is where you can hang out and get lunch in between class. Grounds of Being is where you can get the best latte. Harper is where you can work without hearing a pin drop. The C-Shop is where you can get a bagel or a milkshake, or just meet in small groups. Ex Libris is where you can sit when the A-Level is either too loud or too high-strung (at least, if you can stand those awful fluorescent lights). But none of these places have the character or welcoming feel of Hallowed Grounds.

Has anyone from ORCSA ever bothered to find out what niche Hallowed occupies, and what purpose it serves? Has anyone from ORCSA ever tried to find a seat in there at 4 p.m. on a weekday? (It’s nearly impossible.) Has anyone from ORCSA ever listened to the music? (You can study with it, but it sort of defeats the purpose of cubicles.) Has anyone from ORCSA ever so much as peeked in? (It took until spring quarter for them to take down all the Democratic Party décor from election night.)

This isn’t just about a coffee shop. This is about the University making a deeply unpopular decision without any student input. This is about eviscerating one of the best spots on campus—a spot we need—for something we probably don’t. RSO advising cubicles are all well and good, but not when they infringe upon this particular space.

Hallowed Grounds is a hallowed space indeed. Let’s keep it that way.

John Gamino is a third-year in the College majoring in English and Fundamentals: Issues and Texts. Summer Musings is a new Viewpoints blog that publishes on Tuesdays and Fridays through September 22nd