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Coughy House Celebrates 50th Anniversary….Still Closed?

    Since Coughy House, lovingly referred to as “C-Haus,” opened its doors in 1972, generations of students have faced constant struggles over management and finances to keep it open in the last 50 years. Despite loosening Covid policy restrictions in the recent weeks, C-Haus remains closed to students and faculty.

   Two students have decided to take action. Raahima Talal’24 And Abhey Guram’24 Created a petition to reopen C-Haus that has been circulating around campus since Mon. Feb. 14. The petition has gained 397 student signatures.  20 faculty and staff members and 90 alumni have also signed since it was released.  The petition seems to mark a turning point in student frustration regarding the situation. “We wanted this petition to be a civil, respectful, and unified way of showing how the campus community feels about a much loved campus space.” 

   Talal and Guram are both sophomores who have not been able to experience C-Haus for themselves. They have heard about what the space means to the campus community from upperclassmen and members engaged in previous efforts to reopen C-Haus. “We have never experienced C-Haus. We have heard about it from people who hold C-Haus very close to their heart and are hopeful that we can share the same experiences one day. It is an essential part of the Beloit College community that might be forgotten because of the pandemic,” they said.

   While Guram and Talal understand why C-Haus is still closed, they feel there has been a lack of transparency from the school, saying “However, there wasn’t clarity about what the future looks like for C-Haus because of lack of communication between the administration and student body. A lot of people believe that it was closed because the place had asbestos, or because the first floor needed to be renovated, which is not the case since a large amount of money was recently directed towards its renovations.” The Round Table has not been able to confirm or deny this information.

   The petition includes various reasons  in support of opening the pub, and a list of services it has served to students.  Talal and Guram recognize it as an “iconic Beloit College space since 1972,” an “essential space for recreation, creativity, and community building,” and a “place for the performance and enjoyment of the arts.” They also raise concerns about permanently losing the space in recognition of the closing of Java Joint, DK’s, and the Eaton Chapel basement. They contend that “taking away C-Haus makes the student body question the administration’s view on sexual harassment prevention,” maintaining that providing a recreational space on campus provides more accessibility to campus security, limits travel and Covid-19 contact off-campus and underage drinking, and takes “ preventive action to Title IX violations by recognizing C-Haus as a space that nourishes the naturally-existing Beloit College culture of calling out predators and asking them to leave the premises.”

   Dean of Students Cecil Youngblood and the COVID-19 Taskforce are aware of the petition and  eager to reopen the space when the time is right. “We understand fully the desire of students to want to have things back as they were or they perceive they were,” he said in a statement from the Taskforce. The statement emphasizes that C-Haus remains closed due to Covid, and there “are no hidden agendas.” C-Haus will reopen when the environment is deemed “healthy enough” with “no fear of transmission or spread to the rest of campus.” 

   There is no exact science when it comes to this decision. Understanding the science behind Covid is only one variable. The Taskforce also looks at the college community and local and regional area trends. The deliberation process “always begins with ‘how can we make this happen,’” according to Youngblood. Each factor is weighed in terms of its importance, and its impact on the goal of keeping campus safe, and what guards or alternatives might need to be in place. It all leads to a final decision. For C-Haus to open, all those factors must “tell a story that says, based on the information and our experience we can move in one direction or the other or some form for now.”

   “When we return to C-Haus we want it to be without masks, without  restrictions or risk as much and as reasonably possible, giving the best chance not to have to close it again. We want C-Haus to feel and be as “normal” as possible, safe and fun before we feel we can open it up for the activities it is built to house. We do not consider it to be similar to anything else on campus because it is not,” Youngblood has to say on the matter. 

   In recent weeks C-Haus has been made available to Music Club and other artists as a rehearsal space. Funds from the official C-Haus budget have been allocated to students and organizations as needed, and are being used.

Beloit Student Government and SEAL Director and former C-Haus Manager Frank McKearn IV declined to comment.

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