Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Defending Sylvan: Why the hate?

By Aly Nichols

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Xiaoxiao Hu/Daily Collegian

(Xiaoxiao Hu/Daily Collegian)

What comes to mind when hearing the word ‘Sylvan?’ Is it the long walk up the hill? Or is it the dreary, 1970s-style architecture? Everyone on campus can admit they’ve either heard or reiterated some variation of the phrase, ‘Sylvan stinks, why would you live there?’”

Even some of those who live there bemoan the fact, wondering when they can move. Residents of the Sylvan Residential Area quickly learn to become accustomed to the pitying looks given when telling others where they live. It’s like people are afraid they might catch the “UMass Plague” by interacting with those who live in Sylvan.

But what is it about Sylvan that sets it so far out of normality that people scoff and end the conversation, or even apologize for your bad luck?

As a member of the Sylvan community, I have been on the receiving end of many falsely sympathetic glances. I’ve never understood why people assume I’m crazy for choosing to live in Brown. Nor can I comprehend why I feel the need to defend my choice as being ‘easiest for my situation,’ when in reality I’m not the least bit ashamed of my dorm.

Yet there is always that bubble that forms when people learn, and it’s easier, I have found, to pretend it wasn’t a conscious choice, because people here seem to sympathize if they think you were forced to live in Sylvan rather than choosing it yourself.

Sylvan is a beautiful area. It has three lovely dorms and a spacious central courtyard. There are flowers and trees that surround the area, and make residents feel like they are part of the forest, and yet still on campus.

The parking, though shared with North, is vast and conveniently located. There are designated motorcycle parking spots, plenty of bike racks, and a bus stop in front of Cashin. If one is concerned about being too far from anything worthwhile, there are plenty of ways to get around.

The Honors College doesn’t have its own dining hall, but Sylvan has both Sylvan Snack Bar – which delivers – as well as easy access to Worcester, or only slightly farther, Franklin. The dorms are made up of suites and I can tell you, after living on floor that was predominantly male in Van Meter my freshman year, sharing a bathroom with only seven other people is something I never thought I would appreciate as much as I do.

Don’t want to share a bathroom with the other gender? There are co-ed and single-sex suites to suit every need. Not to mention that the bathrooms come with shelves for each resident, so they don’t have to cart bathroom materials to and from the room.

And if walking through the halls in a towel isn’t your cup of tea, imagine living across from the shower? Two steps, and you’re there.

As much as I loved the common room in Van Meter, it was more often than not crowded, and located in the basement to begin with. Each suite in Sylvan, however, comes with its own common room for your suite only. No more worrying about finding a chair or overhearing conversations you don’t care about.

What’s better is you can decorate your common room, and suite hallway, however you and your suitemates desire. Try doing that in a floor-wide common room, and I can’t guarantee your artwork will still be there the next day.

Have you ever wanted a single? Sylvan has them in abundance. Two per suite – and with eight floors in Brown alone, the odds are in your favor. But it is not as if you will be alone; seven other people are there to interact with as much or as little as you like, even for those introverts like me.

I couldn’t be happier with my suitemates; we’re great friends. Freshman year, no matter how often I left my door open, rarely did anyone stop by. Instead of having to learn an entire floor, I have seven people to befriend. It is easier and more intimate, and certainly not as complicated.

Point is, Sylvan is not as bad as people make it out to be. Maybe transfers are forced there, and if you have a low priority number that’s where you’ll end up. But that doesn’t make it a bad thing. Rather, you’re making your experience terrible but not embracing where you’ve been put.

Living in Sylvan is no different from anywhere else on campus. We just have to walk a little further.

Aly Nichols is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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