Designated Socializing

Last week, the administration presented a new proposal to get the best use out the academic buildings on this campus. According to the agenda, Bullfinch will be expanded to include classrooms for the Classics and Religion-Philosophy departments, and Pearson Hall will be transformed into a student community center. Ryley Room, the social heart of campus, will be moved from the basement of Commons into the centuries-old Latin and Greek building. It is understandable why the administration wants to build a community center. Pearson, located in the center of campus, is a convenient gathering spot for many students. A community center that is equipped entertainment essentials (food, music, DDR, TV, internet access, etc.) allows for areas like the library, currently a social hub, to return to its academic roots. But would the building of a community center actually achieve its intended purpose? Teens sometimes balk at the idea of an area that is “reserved for socializing.” This defeats the purpose of casual hanging-out. If we happen to run into a group of friends in the Garver Room, it is our first inclination to stay where we are to chat. We don’t immediately relocate to the “designated party zone” the moment we interact with other students. The assignment of a specific location for ‘community bonding brings with it the insinuation that we are supposed to limit our chattering and mingling to this designated area. In rebellion of these notions, we students tend to go out of our way to relax in places that aren’t meant for hanging out. The GW mailroom, arranged with couches and vending machines, in an obvious attempt to attract students; the administration assumed that students would immediately gravitate to the mailroom if they felt like relaxing with friends. In fact, just the opposite came true; it is considered taboo to socialize in the place where adults say that you should socialize. The mailroom is a convenient location to meet, but the contrived ‘social atmosphere’ tends to drive more students away. We are repelled by the obvious efforts of the school to accommodate our ‘social needs’, because we are independent teenagers who insist on figuring out everything on our own. We are insulted when people tell us where we should or should not hang out. At the same time, we do need someplace to go to relax. Therefore, we head towards the places that are specifically designed for studies and concentration. Perhaps it is to spite the administration’s attempts to “connect with us.” No matter the reason, areas such as the library are flooded with teenagers anxious to discuss their lives, update their friends, and just relax. This diminishes the quiet atmosphere for the studious bunch who are actually trying to get work done. Phillips Academy students are creatures of habit. Once we find a social spot that we like, we tend to stick to it. This place becomes a designated meeting spot during conference period, after classes, or before heading downtown. Our social spots attain a sacred quality; they hold significance to us and our group, and it isn’t easy to relocate ourselves once we have found a comfort zone. Perhaps the new community center will be so incredibly exciting that we are able to put aside our pride and mingle in the place where the school says we should. Perhaps the atmosphere will be so inviting and jazzed up with every arcade game and food item imaginable that we are able to abandon our traditional hangout spots. But there still remains the debate about the location of the intended community center. Pearson is an old building with historical significance to the school. The building was constructed in 1821, and the Classics department has held classes in this building for a long time. The traditional, old-fashioned interior design has an antique, authentic aura that resonated in the wrought-iron desks, paneled walls, and high-ceilinged rooms. Classics students feel a sense of pride in having their own building, as opposed to sharing Sam Phil with everyone else. The creation of a community center in this historical building would destroy Pearson’s subtle old-school charm. There are mixed feelings floating around campus; while some feel that Pearson is a creepy old pile of creaky wood and bricks, others appreciate its classic appearance. The school as a whole has to decide whether or not a community center is worth the price of completely gutting a historically significant building. If the community center could achieve its intended purpose and become a central place on campus where all students feel welcome and relaxed, I believe that this proposal is one worth our attention. The student body should be informed with more depth into the details of our future gathering spot, and we should have input into the decision process, because, ultimately, we are the ones affected most by the renovations.