UMass students should give Sylvan a chance

It’s time to rethink ‘Suicide Sylvan’


(Collegian file photo)

By Brigid Hern, Collegian Contributor

As an upperclassman living in McNamara, a Sylvan Residential Area multi-year transfer dorm turned freshman dorm, it took less than a week for the new McNamara residents to start asking me how they can move out. One conversation stood out. A girl approached me asking to transfer to Southwest Residential Area. After describing the process, I asked why she was compelled to move; after all, she had been here for all of three days. Her response was, “Well, my upperclassman friend told me it’s ‘Suicide Sylvan.’”

Crassness aside, the myth of “Suicide Sylvan” is just that: a myth. Perpetuated primarily by those who have never even been to the residential area, Sylvan has received a bad reputation and its nickname isn’t harmless. Due to overpopulation this year, many of the freshmen placed in McNamara will never be given the opportunity to move. Dorms are stuffed full of residents, with lounges being converted to quads and even the first floors of some multi-year buildings being dedicated to housing freshmen. The chances of moving dorms, especially to a specific building, are slim.

When upperclassmen smile down to freshmen with pity in their eyes for the housing that they were placed in to, throwing around loaded names like “Suicide Sylvan”, they create unnecessary ostracization within the University of Massachusetts community. The Sylvan reputation extends past that of a typical residential feud. If you are a Southwest devotee and find yourself at odds with someone whose allegiance lies with Orchard Hill Residential Area, there’s an underlying understanding that both of you have formed these opinions based on preferences, that you’ve made the choice to be there. Sylvan has never been afforded that understanding. It’s a place that, in the minds of those who don’t live in it, is an unfortunate consequence of being a transfer or getting a bad housing lottery number. Sylvan is a wasteland in the psyche of many UMass students. The perpetuation of that belief affects the lives of real individuals just trying to enjoy their college experience.

While living in Sylvan for the past few months I have found several Sylvan enthusiasts who have stayed there by their own accord for multiple years. If you allow them, they are happy to cite some of their favorite features of the residential area. Some people prefer the suite-style living: you have a common area shared with you and your suitemates, which is a fantastic place to host guests and get work done. The Sylvan Snack Bar is a student business in the basement of McNamara, which is convenient. The area is home to a lovely basketball court and hiking trails. Personally, I love sharing a bathroom with fewer people. Not having to haul all of my shower supplies up a flight of stairs is a blessing that so many people won’t realize they want until they experience it.

Additionally, Sylvan dorms cost less to live in. They are an option that individuals may take who want to save some money while living on campus, with many of the same perks as North Apartments at a much lower cost.

McNamara’s change to a freshman dorm has ushered in a new opportunity for Sylvan’s reputation to change in the eyes of the UMass public. You don’t have to like Sylvan, but allowing it to become a residential area with known pros and cons and throwing out the offensive, outdated and quite frankly blood-and-thunder moniker of “Suicide Sylvan” could improve the dynamics and community we have built on this campus. Sylvan incorporating freshmen can give us all the opportunity to reset what we believe about Sylvan as a residential area and encourage tolerant, multidimensional thinking that no longer shuns those who choose to reside there.

Brigid Hern is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]