If you are an upperclassman or, really, just anyone with ears here at UD, there’s a fair chance you’ve heard the complaint from Clark-dwellers: “where is everyone?”
The hall, named in loving memory of Zachary Clark, ’16, was built in 2010 following years of anticipation and excitement for a new, large dorm — a student residence that would be free of the crickets and ghosts of Madonna past. Puzzlingly for students and administrators alike, the dorm has been met with complaints since its inauguration.
This shiny new dormitory casts the traditional freshman dorms under a four-story high shadow of spacious suites and communal living spaces. The front doors open straight into a cavernous lobby with ping-pong tables and couches. And yet the lobby has the ominous air of the fake nuclear towns from the 1950s.
Sometimes, there are signs of life in the smaller rooms adjacent to the lobby – the occasional study group or loiterers waiting for the next available washing machine.
Even more shocking is the emptiness of the courtyard encircled by Clark’s wings. This courtyard is one of the most spacious outdoor gathering points on campus, with potential for any outdoor activity, yet it is seldom occupied by more than one lone reader looking for the quietest place on campus.
Angelina Viola, a junior biology major and Clark Resident Assistant, describes this dorm as “the hotel of campus.” Despite the accommodations that lure aged students tired of the foibles of older traditional dorms, many residents of the hall quickly find themselves lonely and isolated. In this “odd space,” laments Viola, “people don’t even look up when you pass them in the halls.” That is, on the rare occasion that one does pass another human in this graveyard.
Even the dean of students and former Madonna resident Dr. Gregory Roper thinks “the living arrangement in Clark makes community tricky.” Junior art history major Angelina Lucchetti puts it frankly, “It’s a black hole from Hell.”
Roper, who entered college on the cusp of the suite style dorm trend of the 70s, recalls “envying friends at other schools while I trudged down the Madonna hallway to take a shower.” However, the traditional dorm layout proved socially advantageous. “While I sat in the hallways of Madonna talking well into the evening with friends, and knew every resident of the dorm, my friends at other schools who lived in suites interacted with, and therefore knew, almost no one beyond their suite,” says Roper.
Do not despair, UDers. In the typical UD fashion, adversity is sparking creativity. It is not the Crusader way to sit idly in the face of injustice or inadequacy. Clark RAs, the unsung heroes of our school, are working tirelessly to provide a community for residents of Clark.
“I’ve been trying to create a little neighborhood in my wing,” says Viola. “We’re trying to cultivate small communities in Clark rather than one huge dorm community.” Viola’s residents will often find her posted up at a table in her hallway with snacks and a smile. Her bulletin of the month encourages residents to be good neighbors. “Just look up and say hi!” Viola entreats.
Thanks to the persistence of Bethany Weinland, Clark’s Resident Coordinator, the dorm will be getting a full kitchen soon. Echoing the sentiments of many students, Roper celebrates this kitchen, which could be pivotal for the dorm’s culture. “All around the world, culture and community start with food and festivity, and I’m so happy that will now be able to take place more fully.”
Using the eternal city as an example, Roper explains his fascination with the way that “humans shape space with architecture, and how those spaces then deeply and — most of the time subconsciously — shape our social, intellectual, psychological, and political lives.” Your physical environment is shaping you, even if you think it’s not.
The socio-architectural disaster of Clark is striking to UDers because we strive for excellence, because we hold a high standard of community. At the bottom of the hill, in the dark woods of a lonely suite, we must always remember the Tower, which Roper describes as “anchoring the Mall and how it articulates a soaring ambition to reach for the heights of the intellect, and beyond the intellect up to Heaven.”