Web Exclusives: On the Campus

October 25, 2006:

Room-draw dilemma
By Jocelyn Hanamirian ’08

Next spring, rising juniors and seniors will have a bigger room-draw decision to make than single or quad, up or down campus, gothic or air-conditioned. As students will be able to draw into the new Whitman College for the fall of 2007, they will be faced by a choice they hadn’t anticipated – eating club or meal plan?

The question of whether living in a four-year college would be compatible with a student’s existing eating club membership was explored during a series of informational meetings hosted by Nancy Malkiel, dean of the college, and Mark Burstein, executive vice president. On Sept. 20 the junior class had its turn to scrutinize the new system and learned, among other things, that all members of four-year colleges will be required to have a minimum dining hall meal plan of 95 meals per semester.

Several students expressed disappointment that a joint membership agreement had not yet been reached between the eating clubs and the residential college planners, though Burstein said discussions between the clubs are ongoing. “We are trying to create more choices for undergraduates,” he said.

Allowing students to live in the four-year colleges without attending meals would detract from a sense of community, Malkiel said. Citing ideas like a class dinner or a pub night for seniors, she said “the idea is to make those things more possible in the residential colleges than anywhere else.”

Many students seemed torn between the spaciousness and comfort of the new four-year college dorms and staying with their eating club membership or being able to draw with friends who are club members.

“You’re making it very tempting to draw back in [to the colleges] without making the other option equally enticing,” said Claire Henderson ’08.

The meal plan, Burstein said, would be roughly equivalent to the cost of some of the sign-in eating clubs. “It is the University’s intent that financial decisions would not drive students’ choice,” he said.

Questions about the four-year college system, Malkiel pointed out, are not unlike members of the Class of 1985’s frustration that they would not be able to draw back into the formerly four-year colleges of Wilson and Princeton Inn (now Forbes) in their senior year, with the advent of the two-year college system.

As those students came to appreciate the new system, so will current students, Malkiel said. “We are absolutely confident that these colleges are going to work,” she said.

ON THE THIRD FLOOR of Frist Campus Center one Saturday afternoon last month, groups of grad students huddled intently around small cauldrons. Instead of neat lab notebooks, they were guided by cryptic blackboard instructions. As they added something to the brew, smoke begin to rise, and you realized: This was no science lab.

This was “The Game,” a combination scavenger hunt, race, and social event sponsored annually by the Graduate College House Committee and the Graduate Student Government. This year, grad students Eugene Brevdo, Leo Alekseyev, Jada Strabbing, Karin Velez, and Megan Ewing organized the event, and the theme was Harry Potter. About 90 grad students and post-docs participated, taking from three to seven hours to work their way through the seven clues.

“The most popular clue was probably the ‘Singing Spiders of Sumatra,’ ” Brevdo said. “These spiders have talking legs – seriously. You run your nail down their ‘flimsy legs’ and the spiders ‘talk’ to tell you the location of the next clue.” (The “spiders” were in fact inflated balloon with wires and a campus map attached.)

It’s not all fun and games, though. Take the potions quiz. From the clue “Blood of Alligator, Hair of Rhinoceros, Bladders of Penguins, and Dolphin’s Diaphragms,” could you decipher that you were dealing with a potion meant for blinding? You could if you figured out to highlight the first letter of the clue’s first capitalized word, the second letter of the second word, and so on. B-l-i-n … well, you get it.

A team might have been told to head next to the “tea break” at the Chancellor Green cafe. There they received tea, snacks, a “clue text,” and four small pieces of metal. By interpreting the text correctly, the team would know to add the metal wires to their tea. The drink’s heat contorted the wires to spell out “1,” “8,” “7,” and “9”: The next stop was indeed 1879 hall.

Got it? To play this game, you have to know how to keep up.

Jocelyn Hanamirian ’08 is an English major from Villanova, Pa.

Photo by Hyunseok Shim ’08