Columns, Opinions

Campbell ’18: Unsilence the Leung Family Gallery

By
Staff Columnist
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

As the weather warms, we will soon begin to see the Main Green fill with students, eager to relax for a short spell before a class or a meeting. On particularly nice or free days, some will undoubtedly stay outside for hours, shirking work in favor of some much-needed relaxation. While students will no doubt be excited for the warm weather, another factor is key to the popularity of the Main Green as well: Brown has no passable indoor space for recreation.

This space should, of course, be available in the Stephen Roberts ’62 Campus Center — or as any student knows it, Faunce. At most universities, the campus center is primarily a social or recreational space, holding eateries, game rooms and more. Of course, on the face of it, Faunce contains all of these things: Between the Blue Room and the basement, those boxes are technically checked. And yet rarely, if ever, does it seem that Faunce provides a space for socialization. The Blue Room is filled with meetings of student groups seemingly unaware that J. Walter Wilson is merely 100 or so feet away. The basement contains students eating, generally miffed at being forced underground by the executive boards hoarding the Blue Room. And Leung Family Gallery? Forget about it. Leung is hardly welcoming to someone with a bit of a cough, let alone to friends wishing to catch up or take a break from their busy schedules. It’s Leung, in fact, that seems to ruin Faunce from the top down: The addition of a deathly quiet study space to the building certainly doesn’t promote its use for carefree relaxation.

I have no problem with Leung itself, but its presence within Faunce changes the tone of the entire building. To fix this, Leung should be used differently. For a start, it could be designed to be more relaxing than the pretentious reading room it currently is. It wasn’t designed to be purely a study space, and there isn’t anything preventing students from using it for other purposes. But the addition of, say, even a single ping-pong table could go a long way in signalling that those sending glares at anyone speaking above a whisper are in the wrong.

Yet while a more clear design could be beneficial, Brown has tried this before. Last year, a “poll” (or rather, a very large piece of paper and some markers) was left in Leung for student to comment on how they wanted Leung to be used. The University also seems to have tried to compromise by playing music on a few select days. This, of course, satisfied no one, frustrating those who frequent Leung to study but flying under the radar for those who do not.

But the real problem is us. It shouldn’t take a sunny, 65-degree day to make us realize that we need a break. Students need an indoor space in which to relax once in a while. The only natural space for this is Faunce — so out of all the campus spaces, can we at least leave our Campus Center untouched by work? To those who want a space to study: Feel free to work as much as you like, but at least do me the courtesy of walking 100 steps to the Rockefeller Library. Read in the Leung if you like, but stop bringing your essays and your judgmental glares into our Campus Center. And to the University: You make it hard enough for us to relax already; you should at least give us a place to do it when we do find the time.

The sheer number of students on the Main Green make it clear that we have both the desire and the time to relax at some point during our days here, yet the lack of space provided by the University makes this next to impossible in the winter months. It’s absurd that a university of the caliber of Brown has no general recreational space for students apart from a couple sad pool tables in a windowless room. The quickest and most effective way to accomplish this is to convert Leung. If we have to, I’m sure we could change the culture of the space. But really, Brown, make this easy on us and redo it. In the building most heavily visited by prospective students, let’s at least try to make Brown look fun.

Vaughn Campbell ’18 can be reached at vaughn_campbell@brown.edu. Or you could simply go to a quiet place and listen for his voice. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.