I’m writing this at the risk of sounding like a hopeless sentimentalist, which if you know me, you know is not my thing. For those of you that don’t go to, have never heard of, or don’t generally care about Clemson University, today is the day that the new dining hall and the new Starbucks opened.
This may seem trivial, and by itself it is, but allow me to give a little background. There were rumors for years that the administration was going to tear down Clemson House and Johnstone, two older residence halls. They were nothing more than that until last year, when it was confirmed that spring 2016 was going to be the last semester that students would live in Clemson House. The rumor was that it was going to be turned into an administration building. That is, until July 15th, when an email was sent out to all students and faculty that Clemson House was going to be torn down. They didn’t give a date, just an immenent threat.
Johnstone was also going to be torn down. I’ve been told that Johnstone is a horrible old deathtrap, so nobody was going to protest that. The problem is that Johnstone is connected to everything around it, which includes the Harcombe dining hall and the Starbucks in a cute little square. These closed on Friday and the new ones, as I said, opened today.
Now before I go any further, why should you care? Most of the people that know anything about Clemson House know that it started as a hotel. It was built back when Clemson was an all-male military school to house female “chaperones” that came for the formal dances. When Clemson started allowing girls, it became a kind of “hangout” for the students, with a restaurant, a non-alcoholic club, a barbershop and several ballrooms. It even housed radio broadcasts in the 70s and 80s. In more recent years, the eighth floor penthouse has housed senators, governors, university presidents, violinists, opera singers, actors and the like. When it became a residence hall, the ballrooms became conference rooms, the restaurant and club went out of business and were replaced by a dining hall, a laundry room, and a gym. Apart from all the historical stuff, I lived there for two years and it was wonderful.
Now that I’ve given you all this background information, back to the reason I’m writing this in the first place. I walked into the new dining hall today and it was overwhelming. It’s huge and open and there are two floors and there are people everywhere and I hated it. After I ate, I went to see the new Starbucks and big shocker I hated that too. What I loved about the old one was the fact that it was its own closed off entity. I felt cozy and safe. That’s usually where I would be writing from. This new one was the opposite of that. It’s practically attached to the new dining hall and it looks mostly the same way: open, modern, cold. I felt exposed. So after this I did what was probably a stupid thing and I went in Clemson House on the way back to my apartment. It seemed lifeless. It wasn’t empty. There were still people in some of the offices, but it felt like a husk. Then I saw the pictures. That’s when I broke. There was writing all along the walls of people just like me. People that love this place, that had their first years of college in this place, and that don’t want it to end. And so, with a pen that barely shows up on the wall, I added my name to the list.
Maybe I just hate change, but as I wipe the tears off my keyboard I don’t think that’s the case. This is our history that we are allowing to be erased in the mistaken hope that what is new will be better. Sometimes that’s the case sure, but not always and certainly not this time. I haven’t even graduated and I’m starting not to recognize my University and all I can do is write this so that it won’t be forgotten forever.
I don’t really know how to end this except to ask, do you think I’m just being a hopeless sentimentalist? Is that all this hole in my heart is?