Turkey Day on the Hill

Not much to do for students staying on campus over Thanksgiving break

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The University wasn’t completely closed over Thanksgiving break, but for the few hardy souls who remained on College Hill, it often seemed that way. With limited services available, no University dining options and mostly empty residence halls, students turned to siblings, visiting friends and the Third World Center’s annual Thanksgiving dinner for social interaction on an otherwise dormant campus.

Many who remained at Brown for the holiday were international students or lived far enough away that heading home was too expensive or difficult, according to students and administrators interviewed by The Herald. In addition, some athletes were on campus for at least part of the break, as several varsity sports teams – including men’s and women’s ice hockey and men’s basketball – had home games over the weekend.

Though most students left campus, the dorms were open and some services continued. Custodial and maintenance coverage continued on a scaled-back basis over the break, with only emergency service available on Thanksgiving and limited service available for the rest of the weekend. The Rockefeller Library, the Sciences Library and the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center were all closed Thursday and Friday and open for limited hours over the weekend.

Both main dining halls and all other campus eateries were closed, although the Sharpe Refectory reopened for dinner Sunday night, a day earlier than in past years.

Finding foodWith both dining halls closed, students seeking a traditional feast on campus turned to the TWC’s annual free Thanksgiving meal. Karen McLaurin, director of the TWC and associate dean of the College, said about 70 students, ranging from first-years to graduate students, turned up for a traditional Thanksgiving meal Thursday. The food was delivered from Boston Market, and attendees played board games and socialized after eating, she said.

The Third World Center has been hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for “about 13 years,” McLaurin said. She has been director of the center for 16 years, and it was her idea to have the center host a dinner. “When I found out that the cafeteria closed, I was a little shocked and I was willing to try to do something. I thought it was something that should happen,” she said.

President Ruth Simmons hosted students for Thanksgiving dinner once, but she was out of town this year, according to Assistant to the President Marisa Quinn.

McLaurin said this year’s event went “very nicely,” adding that most of the attendees did not know one another, but got a chance to meet new people.

Carmen Valdivia ’10, an international student from Nicaragua who stayed on campus, said the TWC “did a good job” with the dinner and that she enjoyed meeting people, even though she arrived late and most of the food was already gone.

“It was really nice,” said Arielle Rames ‘07.5, who hails from the U.S. Virgin Islands and was staying on campus for the first time. “The food was really good,” she added.

Not everyone who stayed on campus went to the TWC. Chris Saunders ’10, a Southern California native, opted not to go to the dinner because it was earlier than he wanted to eat. He and his girlfriend, who was visiting from Oregon, decided to go to Café Paragon, a restaurant located at 234 Thayer St., instead. Paragon served “an amazing Thanksgiving dinner,” he said.

Beyond Thursday’s main meal, the dearth of food on campus the rest of the weekend made life difficult for some who stayed. “I did not like having to pay for food,” Rames said. “I had a lot of Ramen.”

Saunders agreed that the lack of food was frustrating. “It would have been really nice if they had kept at least one place open,” he said.

An empty campusLike many of those who remained on College Hill, Saunders did not stay alone. Although he said it was “too much of a hassle” and too expensive to fly home to Los Angeles, he did pay for a plane ticket for his girlfriend, a freshman at the University of Oregon, to come and stay with him.

Saunders, who lives in Archibald House in Keeney Quadrangle, said that the dorms were “very, very empty” and “kind of creepy at night.” “I was glad that I only had to do one night of being all alone,” he added.

Valdivia was visited by her brother, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It gave me some time to relax from school and go out with my brother,” she said. “It was nice.”

Valdivia did say she found the lack of people or things to do on campus somewhat “depressing,” however. “There was nothing to do here,” she said.

Rames said it was “way too expensive to go home.” In previous years she has visited relatives in New York or Washington, D.C., but this year she decided it would be easier to stay in Providence. “It was less stressful,” she said. “Going somewhere for just a few days is hard for me.”

Rames, who lives in Vartan Gregorian Quadrangle, had a friend come visit and also spent time with her younger brother, Josh Rames ’10. Overall she said she was happy with her decision to stay on campus. “It was nice, I really enjoyed it,” she said. “In some respects it was pretty interesting. I’ve never been on campus when there were not very many people here. It’s strange not to be able to knock on someone’s door and go say ‘Hi.'”

An estimate of the exact number of students who remained on campus was not available, according to Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, interim vice president for campus life and student services.

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