I’ve been a die-hard Residential College student ever since I came to the University two and a half years ago. I’ve declared my RC major, joined an RC a cappella group, participated in RC plays, written for RC publications and done my mandated time in an RC language class. I lived in East Quad Residence Hall my freshman year, and though it took some time, I grew into the RC lifestyle. I walked around the building without shoes, went to morning lecture in my pajamas and knew lunchtime conversations were to be had in a language other than English.
I will be the first to admit that East Quad itself had some quirks, for lack of a better word. Many could call them flaws, but they were part of the charm of the RC experience. Personally, I enjoyed that the showerheads were best fit for those 5’5” and under because, as a 5’4” girl, they made washing shampoo out of my hair much quicker. Hearing a toilet flush overhead during a class was commonplace and added a comedic interlude to serious debates or tense conversations. The carpets had a different dizzying pattern in every room, spotted with mysterious stains, and the walls were only a modest cinderblock. The ceilings were a maze of piping, blotted with the occasional leak and containing possible asbestos threats, but the health department hadn’t shut us down yet, so all was well. The Half-Ass smelled like cream of broccoli soup, but that didn’t matter when there was a free concert.
To most people, this lifestyle could be deemed unorthodox at best, but to RCers, it was a safe, anything-goes kind of place, in which being different was allowed, if not encouraged. This difference was precisely what deterred others from visiting East Quad, keeping the community safely enclosed and sheltered from outside criticism. When East Quad was closed for renovations, however, all of this changed.
RC faculty worked extremely hard to ease the pains of transition from East to West Quad; however, the community took a serious hit. Sophomores like myself couldn’t identify RC freshmen from anyone else in the dining hall, depleting the relationship between first- and second-year students, and thus the sense of community the RC tries to stand for. Classes were in Dennison instead of the basement, meaning it was necessary to put on real clothes, walk across campus and sit in a windowless building that has been called ten levels of hell. As terrible as Dennison is, it was truly only one of many nails in the RC’s coffin that year.
Then, finally, a whole homeless year later, East Quad was back. RCers like myself rejoiced, looking forward to wandering familiar halls, sitting in old classrooms and having a place to be weird without being scoffed at by others.
Instead, we were greeted by a generic building that lacks character and can be best compared to the rich section of a shopping mall or a brand new airport. For a renovation that claimed it would maintain the integrity of the building, it became blaringly clear that those involved felt that there was not much worth keeping except for the outer walls. What appeared to be the same building, the same home was in reality gutted and redone without much thought to the uses of the building or the character of the people that would be using it.
I’m not saying that new East Quad isn’t nice. It’s clean and modern and freshmen that live there now appreciate their new home as much as I had appreciated mine two years ago. However, they aren’t privy to how much was lost when the building was redone.
The Half-Ass, or Halfway Inn, was altogether removed from the building’s layout. It was not only a place to study for students living in East Quad, but a performance venue for bands, a theater practice space, a meeting room for forums and the home of many art events like open mic nights and poetry readings. Without it, the art community is left only with one stage: the Keene Theater. But, where is the Keene Theater? Somehow in the renovation, the outdoor entrance to the theater was forgotten, the two levels of seating were separated and left unmarked, and, adding insult to injury, the lighting system was disconnected and is now deemed unsafe and unusable for what could be the rest of the year. The East Quad Music Co-op, a student run non-profit that hosted shows in the Half-Ass, not only lost their venue space but also their office space, which has been diminished to a cage in a utility room. There are also fewer music practice rooms and the theater’s classroom doubles as a dance studio, combining two heavily used spaces into just one room with a mean septic leak.
For a community centered on arts, the renovation certainly has failed to prioritize the needs of the artists who are living in the space.
My disdain for the new building doesn’t even end with all that was forgotten when redesigning the quad; some of the additions are just as ridiculous. First of all, why so much glass? Is it supposed to be a fish bowl or a zoo? Do people enjoy being stared at in their glass classrooms, study lounges, or offices? Why is there a portion of the cafeteria named 24 Carrots? Why 24, and why carrots? Additionally, why so mainstream? Everything about the building reeks of business-mod that appeals to potential students but ignores the down-to-earth nature of the RC.
East Quadders don’t need swank or class. We need walls that can be painted on with murals of unicorns and rainbows. We don’t need a big fancy cafeteria with “seven restaurant concepts,” whatever the hell that means anyway. We need more pianos and places to dance at three in the morning and stages to throw free concerts on. We need the freedom to walk around without shoes on and make the space our own, not to feel afraid to leave our handprints on yet another glass surface.
Regardless of how necessary the renovation was, $116 million dollars is an astronomical sum of money to spend on making a home into a hotel.
Paige Pfleger is an LSA junior.