What Happened to Beloit Culture?
This semester has been different in a way I can’t quite describe. It’s not anything that obvious, but something only distinguishable to those who have noticed it fading over time. Maybe it’s just the nostalgia of my senior year, but as I walk through campus, I can’t help but notice how much it’s changed since I first arrived here.
I miss the bustling energy of D.K’s on a Sunday night, when everyone crammed into those circle tables and complained over the hour long lines for mediocre egg sandwiches and wraps. Or the late night Java Joint hours on a random Tuesday before exams, and the comfort of a loaded tater tots to soothe my anxious studying. So what happened to these spaces? The spaces that made Beloit feel like Beloit?
The Powerhouse happened. As soon as it opened, our favorite spaces started to disappear one by one. Java, C-Haus, now D.K’s. In an effort to promote and encourage students to use The Powerhouse, older students have grown increasingly more resentful of it. Maybe it’s different for the newer classes, those who didn’t experience the spaces that the older classes loved. For me, I see the college pouring money into yet another athletic program at the expense of uniquely beloit programs.
I’d much rather spend my time at a place like C-Haus, where students were free to express themselves without the watchful eyes of faculty and administrators. Where you could literally draw on the walls and dance and laugh away from athletes who rarely used the space. Or at Java, where there was always something going on, bingo night or a comedy show or even drag shows. Those events just don’t feel the same within the walls of The Powerhouse, where the walls are clinically white and everything is shiny and new.
The cultural divide between the Bucs and Turtles, Athlete and Non-athlete has existed as long as Beloit has. The Powerhouse has only solidified that divide even more. This year’s freshman class is more than 50% athletes. In my time here, I’ve never seen that before. However you feel about the athletic programs, there is no question that this will change the culture of this campus. So what does that mean for Beloit?
I wish I knew. But I don’t think anyone will know until we also understand the extent to which COVID has changed our culture, both locally and nationally. The truth is no one understands how this pandemic will change the way we socialize, and change the experience of this college. I wish I could more confidently believe that the turtle spaces will survive the pandemic, but with the financial hardship and the administration’s athletic priorities, I’m not so sure. Places like C-Haus and special interest houses have existed for students for decades, and it saddens me to think their memory might not outlive my time at Beloit. Like most businesses and organizations around the world, Beloit needs to look in the mirror and decide who it wants to be.