Bring Student Life Back to Dahlgren Quad
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 00:10
In 1797, the students of Georgetown Academy gathered outside as President George Washington spoke from the front steps of their dormitory and class building, Old North. In 1893, Georgetown students gathered to inaugurate the school year with the first Mass of the Holy Spirit in their new spiritual home, Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart, whose completion created the same quadrangle we know today. In 1936, Cardinal Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII, entered the quad through Healy Hall. As he appeared, students hanging flags out their dormitory windows cheered from each side and from the upper floors of Healy. When he reached the center, amid the warm reception, the future pope stood to look around as one side began “Hoya!” The other side promptly responded with “Saxa!”
The university’s recent announcement that the administration is considering renovation of Ryan and Mulledy halls for on-campus housing is an exciting development in the response to the 2010 Campus Plan agreement, a consideration that offers an opportunity to make the quadrangle the center of student life once again. These historic buildings, after being empty for many years, can add additional beds on campus and return students to the historic, spiritual and academic heart of the Hilltop. Georgetown should make every effort to utilize Ryan and Mulledy as university housing and should seek to make it a permanent, rather than temporary, solution. More importantly, though, housing students in Ryan and Mulledy provides an opportunity to re-envision Dahlgren Quadrangle as a center of student life, as it was throughout most of Georgetown’s history.
In the 2010 Report on Student Space at Georgetown University, a collection of students conducted a survey on the student body’s thoughts on the current status of campus space. When asked what they consider to be the center of student life, only 5 percent of respondents said Healy Hall/Dahlgren Quad. When asked what they desire to be the center of student life on campus, 45 percent responded Healy Hall/Dahlgren Quad, more than any other campus space and 21 percentage points higher than the next most desired space. Of four proposals for improving student space in New South, the Leavey Center, Healy/Old North and “other,” 53 percent of respondents preferred Healy and Old North. Even more telling, 88 percent of respondents supported restoring student space in Healy Hall.
As the report demonstrates, students have a strong desire to restore student life in Dahlgren Quad. The next five years at Georgetown provide an important opportunity to bring students back to the quad. With a need to institute permanent housing options on campus, Ryan and Mulledy halls provide a compelling opportunity — one that should be the priority for Georgetown’s administration.
Looking beyond those buildings, every corner of the quadrangle provides a great opportunity. In the exciting announcement of the McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown’s administration suggested that “a home in closer proximity to policymakers and practitioners” is likely in store for the new school. This would open exciting historic space in Old North, one of Georgetown’s oldest buildings, which currently houses the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. Old North would provide an important opportunity to put central, historic space in student hands, along with possible office space for student groups and student lounges that could increase collaboration between organizations.
Healy Hall also provides an immediate opportunity to bring students back into Dahlgren Quad. Many years ago, students lived, studied and socialized in that historic building. Now, the building has been captured by Georgetown’s administrative and academic institutes. Returning the Philodemic Room to full student ownership and developing Carroll Parlor into permanent student study space would be important first steps. Extending the hours of the Bioethics Library would return Healy to its prominence as an academic space, and opening up study space in Riggs Library can restore that space to its original purpose. In the long run, with the interests of student life and engagement paramount, some of the most active and historic student organizations can be offered offices in Healy to represent Georgetown’s primary dedication to its students.
These ideas are only the beginning of the endless possibilities that can return students to Dahlgren Quadrangle. Throughout Georgetown’s past, students have lived, learned and developed in the quad. With a clear vision for what the space can become and productive collaboration between administrators and students, Dahlgren Quad can be restored as the center of student life at Georgetown. This step would be another major sign that students are at the center of university life.
Jack Appelbaum is a senior in the College. He is director of student space for the Georgetown University Student Association.