Spatial Priorities

The past few weeks, I've been to drawn to thinking about the idea of space, especially at CMC and the 5Cs, and how we in Claremont understand space as a part of our daily lives. CMC, in more ways than one, is a very small school. It's hard to walk across the campus without seeing people you know, whether they be friends, professors, or both. That doesn’t always happen at bigger schools, at least not to the same degree. Due to CMC’s size, the finite number of spaces we have to use restricts the number of places available to study or party, forcing us to share these spaces for a number of functions. It’s easy to have different classes or meetings held in the same room, even if they have entirely different purposes or happen at different times in the day. Having our spaces serve so many different and even conflicting purposes at CMC can challenge the ways we construe and prioritize things in our lives here. Take the middle of North Quad, for example. It's a thoroughfare where many of us walk, board, and move from class to class and place to place. Between classes in the middle of the day, the space is full. But you’re just as likely to see a friend headed to their next class as you are President Chodosh; the area is shared, both residential and academic. Even more bizarre is that the same space becomes the location for events like Wedding Party and Space-X, albeit with the addition of a tent in the quad. At these parties, the space we use as a conduit for our education becomes, for some, a venue for their Saturday night.

The need to use the same space for different functions asks us as students and residents of the campus to constantly reassess our priorities. Depending on the day of the week, or in a matter of a few hours, being in a lounge or in the quad can mean you’re either settling down to study or getting ready to party. But what sort of implications does that have? It makes the occupants of those spaces don a number of hats, sometimes simultaneously. The behavior you have around your friends goofing around after classes is often not the kind of behavior you want a professor to see as they walk from a class to their office. You’re expected to act in very different ways in the same space, depending only on the time of day or day of the week. Residents of certain dorms like Green, Appleby, and Crown Hall—especially this year, with fewer dorms available to be used for TNC—have to cope with the events hosted mere feet from where they study and sleep. At a larger school, you might not live anywhere near a party's location and never have to have the physical spaces of your academic life contend with those of your social life.

Sometimes, we don’t even notice the way these shared uses affect us. It can take time or something jarring to make us reassess what it is that makes up a space or how it serves us. Further, darker implications about using the same space for a variety of purposes arise when you consider sexual violence on campus. Survivors of sexual assault may not only have to cope with the actual act of violence and the subsequent trauma, but also find themselves constantly confronted with the space where it occurred and the negative memories associated with it. If someone has their comfort or privacy infringed upon and it happens in one of these multi-purposed, shared spaces, not only is their experience of that particular event tainted, but their entire perception of that space might be as well. Furthermore, the very real threat of seeing or having to interact with someone who has violated your comfort is all the more prevalent when you have no choice but to walk a particular route to get to class or a party, and you can’t avoid certain spaces. These unfortunate negative occurrences can give spaces that serve multiple functions at CMC additional volatility for victims.

The fact that CMC has a small, interconnected campus isn’t inherently a bad thing, though, or even something to necessarily worry about all the time. It can actually serve as a testament to CMC students’ ability to manage their many commitments—whether those are academic, extra-curricular or social—that we have to balance all of these things within the same small space.