House culture disintegrates within new dorms

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Mary McDonough

It’s impossible for me to talk about West Hall without the word family. I was lucky to spend my first two years living in Classic House.

A year and a half of that was spent in the cinder block walls of our 1960 sanctuary. Everything in our little village was well until we were told we’d have to move. Come winter of 2017, it was all just a ticking time bomb. West Hall was only to be kept open for one more semester and then it was off to Birch and Cedar. To this day, as I look back, all I can think of is the fear. There was so much uncertainty. The only thing to hold onto was a small list of promises, the names of the houses and our housing government. Our hopes were high, as the distance between buildings was minor.

Our sense of community at West Hall was exactly what Housing wanted for The Woods. This configuration of new buildings was to be one large complex of dorms, joined by the large lobby area, known as The Lodge, which would connect main hallways. But the actual living areas of these buildings were locked sections. They still needed the true essence of what made West Hall special. They needed us.

It was explained to us all that houses, specific hallways on each floor of a dorm, would be kept together. It was a true relief; my support system would remain intact. Not all of the houses were as lucky as Classic came to be. I know it seems minor. Holding our breath as time went on, it became all about trying to make as many memories as we had time for. Halloween parties, white elephant gift exchange and Christmas dinner for the entire hall to enjoy together. We were all each other had. We were family.

January came and I made my way anxiously up the hill, trudging through the snow. This was
either going to go just as promised, or totally wrong. Two weeks into the semester and the excitement of
foam mattresses, new furniture
and updated laundry began to thin. The former West Hall residents were split between buildings right down the middle with no way to close the gap between. Trying to coordinate student and event schedules between two buildings became a nightmare. Losses and move-ins among houses brought out the need for familiarity and bonds we knew we could trust. Fight or flight mode was in the air. It felt like the fracture that no one wanted. Where was the community? What caused something so strong to suddenly give out? Barriers.

Classic House, with our mix of returners and new arrivals, tried to bring back the schedule we always had. House dinner at 6 p.m., movies, night hikes, anything to be together. That is how we survived. Not every house is like Classic. Nevertheless, as much as each of its branches worked to find what we had, West Hall culture was lost.

The community transplant that sounded so harmless only one year before, was unsuccessful. It was an unexplainable loss to those of us who understood. There was anger mixed with some resentment and confusion. But boil it down, and we are just a bunch of kids who would rather have cinder blocks and asbestos over foam beds and freshly painted blank walls, if the latter means our community disappears. Kids who feel like they are left without their
true home.

You break something down to make it new and there is no promise that the pieces will fit back like once before.