Editor’s Column: Leaving a Mark

 

 

Elisabeth Tone

In the summer before my first year at Colgate, I received a letter from ResLife notify­ing me that I would be living on the fifth floor of West Hall, which I remembered from my tour was the oldest building on campus. Built in 1827 from stone that the faculty and students quarried themselves, West Hall not only served as a dormitory, but also housed a chapel, a lecture room and even a library. In the intervening century and a half, Colgate has expanded far beyond the limestone walls of West Hall, and now incorporates build­ings that are scattered all over this deceivingly precipitous hill. Several new buildings have altered Colgate’s aesthetic composition in the three and a half years I have been on campus. In fact, the arrival of the Class of 2011 serendipitously coincided with the official opening of the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology back in August 2007.

My friends are aware of the ungodly number of hours I spend in the library every se­mester. Can you imagine if I had been a student here when the library occupied a floor in West Hall, or, worse, was temporarily housed in the James C. Colgate Student Union? I would have had to transfer. Luckily, construction on the new library was completed a few months before my matriculation at Colgate, and the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center was dedicated three weeks into my first semester. Thinking back now, I am struck by how quickly these new buildings acquired distinct qualities so soon after the student body flooded their halls and study spaces.

Sometimes when I think of the different floors of Colgate’s library, I am reminded of that scene in Mean Girls where Janis Ian distinguishes the high school’s different social cliques by their lunch tables (“You got your Freshmen, ROTC Guys, Preps, J.V. Jocks… Desperate Wannabees, Burnouts, Sexually Active Band Geeks…”).

At Colgate, the different floors of the library assume the same role as the lunch tables in Mean Girls. In the fifth floor Reading Room you’ve got your social scholars who indulge in $4 chai lattes and appreciate the beauty of an upstate sunset (that is, when it’s not snowing). Studious loners frequent the cubicles of the fourth level. The who’s who of Colgate Greek Life socialize at the third floor tables while they “print out their homework,” “consult a Reference book” or “write their papers.” Meanwhile, stressed seniors have mental breakdowns in the thesis cubicles of the second floor, as the school’s narcoleptics seek refuge in the comfortable chairs by the windows. Almost no one visits the Government Documents on the first floor (… okay, I did once, but only because the library was crowded during finals week).

Contrary to what you might think, I have not written this column to emphasize just how nerdy I am (you probably already know that) or to map out the social scene of aca­demia (you probably already know that, too). Rather, when I reflected back on the sig­nificant transformations the campus has undergone in recent years, I was struck by how quickly and enthusiastically we students infused Colgate’s new facilities with our academic and social spirit and made them our own.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you definitely know that we celebrated the opening of the Trudy Fitness Center this past Monday, January 31. President Herbst was the first official patron of the new gym, but 153 students, faculty and staff members joined him at 6 a.m. to commemorate Trudy’s grand opening. I think it is only a matter of time before Trudy’s stark newness yields to the routines of Colgate’s athletes and workout enthusiasts and adopts its own unique atmosphere. If the number of people who visited Trudy on Monday is any indication of its future popularity, the center’s large open spaces will soon be filled by the laughs, gossip and words of encouragement that pass between the many gym-goers.

Colgate is not at all the same it was when 13 men founded it as a seminary in 1819. In the past 182 years, the school has changed its name twice and exploded in size and diversity; the nearly continuous construction around different parts of campus has been an attempt to accommodate this explosion and to meet the needs of the University’s more than 2,800 stu­dents. Yet, in spite of these many transformations (both in aesthetics and in composition), I firmly believe that today’s Colgate students retain the same devotion to scholarship, com­mitment to service and contagious school pride as those men who built West Hall almost two centuries ago.