AT ISSUE: Major campus changes feel alienating to returning students
OUR TAKE: We need to remember that this place isn’t ours
When we left school at the end of the spring semester, it was the last time we would see the campus to which we had grown accustomed. It was gone by the time we returned a mere four months later. The legendary Little Building, once a home to over 700 students, is now boarded up and covered in even more scaffolding than we previously thought possible. Our beloved little C-store was relocated to what used to be The Max, the DH moved to the basement of the Walker Building and retitled the Dining Center. And what ever happened to Einstein Bros. Bagels?
Whether we knew this former Emerson for only a year or for three, that school is a very different one from what this year’s freshmen are inheriting. Complete with freshly-pressed purple and white banners, and an 18-floor residence building with a terrace and Starbucks, these upgrades are only the beginning of a whole slew of impending changes in years to come.
All of this seems to proliferate into an odd sense of displacement for upperclassmen—many of the spaces we once occupied no longer belong to us in the way we remember them. With this comes a sense of loss—not deep, aching, or devastating—but meaningful.
It goes beyond the petty nostalgia of a Buzzfeed quiz or a VH1 clip show or some other indulgence of things. It’s also distinct from any sense of moral conservatism—Our subconscious resistance to change is not reactionary in nature. It’s a matter of place. As corporeal, conscious beings, our thoughts, emotions, and experiences are constantly and strictly filtered through the physical spaces we inhabit. Reminiscing on past college years conjures images of dorm rooms and classrooms, favored DH tables and go-to Iwasaki nooks, common room couches and cramped twin-XL beds. Yes, we end up abandoning many of these spaces every May, and that in itself evokes some melancholia—but at least those spaces tend to stick around. Our memories are still grounded in places that actually exist. But what happens when the front door is locked and your old stomping grounds are gutted? What happens when those places and spaces go away? What of your memories then? No wonder it’s alienating.
It’s easy to develop a sense of ownership over a campus. For many it comes to feel as much like home as anywhere, but Emerson ultimately is not ours, and to pretend otherwise would hold both future students and the institution back. We move in and establish lives here with the understanding that we may not and should not stay. Our attachment is certainly due in part to genuine appreciation of the school or its inhabitants, but the sense of loss incurred by change seems driven by a fear of being pushed out of the final nest. We leave parts of ourselves at college and take plenty away, but we have to move on.
It is on this campus that many of us learned what it means to be us. But to hope that nothing changes, to keep our campus forever in stasis, is selfish and unrealistic. Our school’s motto states that expression is necessary to evolution, but evolution is equally necessary to expression. Only by looking to the future can we hope to do any good. Older students must not leave Emerson as crumbling ruin, but must reevaluate and reinvigorate its very infrastructure in order to benefit the classes that come after. Though these future generations will not experience the same Emerson we knew, their experiences define the school just as much as any other. Life is not stationary, nor are we. Go with the flow; who can say where you’ll end up?