Though East Quad Residence Hall’s Halfway Inn café — commonly referred to as “the Half-ass”— closed at the beginning of the school year, students within East Quad are trying to bring the alternative flare back to the space.
Rachel Sherman, a sophomore in the Residential College, is leading an effort with the East Quad Music Co-Op to revitalize the spirit of the Halfway Inn, which was transitioned from a café and convenience store to a lounge. She said the café was a special place for East Quad residents and RC students over the years, and she wants to bring back the former atmosphere of the space, despite the absence of its infamous café.
“This place had a lot of character that I can’t find in any other café,” Sherman said. “It really had student sense to it.”
Sherman said she hopes to rally students in East Quad in support of the cause, since many were upset when University Housing made little effort to collaborate with them or discuss the closing of the café.
“When they cleared the Half-ass out, they didn’t really seem to consult, to ask any students what they thought about it, and student participation is what the RC’s all about,” Sherman said.
Last Friday, Sherman and the East Quad Music Co-Op held an open mic night in the Halfway Inn as their first collaborative event. During the show, Sherman sat at a table and encouraged students to come up and write down suggestions on how to renew the Halfway Inn and bring back its personality.
“The beginning is trying to see what the students themselves want to see,” Sherman said. “It’s not my vision; it’s theirs.”
Sherman said when she initially arrived in East Quad as a freshman she viewed the Halfway Inn as smelly and grungy, but as she spent more time there she was drawn more and more to the atmosphere.
She added that the dinginess was part of the charm that frequently attracted her and many of her fellow East Quad residents there.
“(The Halfway Inn) had things going on every Friday from the East Quad Music Co-Op,” Sherman said. “And there’d be silly kids doing silly things down here and everyone hanging out, and the atmosphere just really embodied what I thought about the RC.”
In a Sept. 15 article in The Michigan Daily, University Housing spokesman Peter Logan said Housing moved the café to the first floor to provide students with more dining options. He added that its previous location in the basement limited dining services.
The lounge is still open to students 24 hours a day for studying or hanging out with friends. Despite this, Sherman said few students actually use the space, with the exception of the East Quad Music Co-Op.
“What I want mostly is a bunch of student art all over the place. I want student murals and student submissions. I’d love to get one of those spray paint chalk walls,” Sherman said. “I just want it to be a place where people can come and do things like this that they want to do and like hang out with people if they want to. Because in places where community fostered art is established, it just inspires people to get things done.”
She also said that she hopes by advocating for change like this within East Quad, she will inspire students to work toward their own ideas for change within their residence halls and community.
“Hopefully if people start to really get active in building the community and putting an active effort into revamping this Half-ass, then maybe they’ll get inspired, and if they see something they don’t like, they’ll say ‘I can take an active role in this because this is where I’m living, and this is my community as well,’” Sherman said.
School of Music, Theatre & Dance senior Matt Steele, a fourth-year member of the East Quad Music Co-Op, said he hopes to see the area restored because he has fond memories of hanging out in the space.
“It’s cool to get the East Quad kids more involved, and I remember before they closed the Half-ass and the café, people were always down here hanging out and talking, and I would always go meet people down here,” Steele said. “So hopefully that will come back because this is a better space than anywhere else I’ve been in the University to just hang out and get work done but also to meet with people.”