Dorm Drop-Ins: Life on the Inside

Another freezing February weeknight has most UVMers marooned indoors … again. We wondered: if we could peek into dorm life after classes, parties and snow/y days, what would we find?

Our quest led us to sit in on hang-out sessions everywhere from Redstone to Trinity. Every dorm has its own feel to it, but what all the buildings had in common – other than cinderblocks – were friendly students welcoming us into their inner circles, how ever they were.

Walking into Harris – Millis felt like going home – real home. Upstairs in Harris, music played from someone’s nearby computer, and floated through open doors. Students were relaxed and at ease as people discussed events of the past weekend. “Were there bagels next to the keg?” someone asked. Students seemed happy. Their biggest concern with Harris life was being able to hear their neighbors’ hookup through the walls.

In Hamilton, “We talk about celebrities, drugs, boys and girls,” freshman Rachel Galluzzo said as the commentary to E-News droned on in the background. The conversation drifted on to clothes and shoes, until Anna Nicole Smith popped up on the television. “You know,” student Dave Puglisse said in reference to the deceased model/actress’s pornography, “I feel bad looking at naked dead people.”

Kids in Converse agreed that heavy conversation topics were hard to come by from day to day. “I feel like when we come back from classes, we don’t want to talk about serious stuff,” said UVM fresh-man Danielle Williams.

Similarly, on Trinity, sophomore Amy Kaplan admitted that conversation “all comes back to sex.” Everyone laughed and then quickly quieted as “Grey’s Anatomy” came back onto the TV. During the next commercial break, freshman Staci Ryan talked about the community feel to Trinity. “You can go into anyone’s dorms at any time,” she said, but also acknowledged that a lot of people tend to go home on the weekends.

At Wing-Davis-Wilks, it was Jenga Night in the common room. Everyone had their eyes glued to the 30 story jenga game as they jokingly talked about shrooms in front of their Residential Advisor. Although the conversation was fun, the students did have some informed opinions on Britain’s recent pulling out 2,000 troops from Iraq. “Britain is pulling out because they know it’s not worth it … and cause Prince Henry is going to Iraq,” freshman Ross Grimshaw told the room.

A freshman named Matthew summarized the atmosphere of University Heights saying, “I feel like our dorm is very philosophical … when you guys weren’t in here me and Dakota were talking about what our views on fate are.”

Matthew and Dakota started their chat over again with a recorder in the room, and the conversation turned this time to the existence of God. The tone was unsure as they struggled with a question that has plagues people throughout history. That is, until Dakota piped in, “I like Him, he’s, um, like my imaginary friend!” Obviously intoxicated on a Thirsty Thursday night.

The conversation drifted to music and television: Bright Eyes, Modest Mouse and, surprisingly, Bill O’Reilly (not surprisingly, they don’t like him). U Heights had a frenetic atmosphere comprised of the interplay between ethanol and deep thoughts; maybe those Honor College students have more of a social life than the campus gives them credit for.

Across the way at the Living/Learning Complex, the feeling was entirely different. Upon entering a suite, we found five people sitting in a circle having just finished smoking some flavored tobacco. There was only one word for it: chill.

The students started talking about the University and some of their qualms with it. One student named Eli expounded on a seemingly shared view that there is a contradiction between the University’s supposed “enlightened” attitude and its practices.

“Well we’re like one of the only ones who make any attempt on the environment thing, but then some policies are so ass-backwards … like all the subcontracting they do and the wages they pay their workers, it makes it impossible for workers to live in Burlington because they all have to commute so far, because they can’t afford it,” he explained.

He went on to say how he wished he could talk to President Fogel about these sorts of issues. There was general agreement in the room of students, a common feeling of calm disapproval. Then the conversation shifted, inevitably, to music: ruminating on Pink Floyd’s early work and listening to Syd Barrett singing “The Gnome.” They all concurred that it was some “pretty crazy shit.”

Although not a totally precise picture of the entire campus life, our drop-ins on the dorms rendered a compelling reflection of life on campus. UVM today is neither an incubator of idealistic intellectual outrage, nor a peaceful monastery of dogmatic saints. Whether talking about Anna Nicole Smith, God or President Fogel (quite the triumvirate, to be sure), the students of the University are the life of the University, and both seem to be doing well.