Let’s stop pretending Central is central

It is time for UMass to rethink the name of Central Residential Area

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Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian (2014)

By Muskan Kumar, Collegian Correspondent

It’s move-in day, and all is well as you head to your dorm. It’s in the perfect location! As part of the Central Residence Area, you will be right in the center of campus, the perfect spot to experience everything the University of Massachusetts Amherst has to offer. All seems well, until you pull up in front of your dorm. The air suddenly feels colder, the oxygen lacking. You figure you’re hallucinating. Not because of the building standing in front of you, but the sloping landscape behind it.

For many living in the Van Meter and Butterfield Residence Halls in the officially-named Central Residential Area (though physically adjacent to the Orchard Hill Residential Area) at UMass, move-in day was nothing short of dizzying. Not just because we had to make the bare empty rooms livable, but also because we had to face the fact that we were actually living higher on a hill than those in the infamous Orchard Hill. That first night, as I was looking down the hill to ponder which path I would venture down to  Franklin Dining Commons, I couldn’t help but feel lied to.

This feeling is rampant among the residents I have spoken to in Van Meter and Butterfield. When we received our assignments, we didn’t expect to find ourselves a brisk walk from the exit of campus, stuck on a hill with no sustainable source for meals. For students trying to adjust to life on their own for likely the first time in their lives, having to contemplate each trip to minimize hiking hills was not part of the plan.

I’ve since found that there is simply nothing “central” about us. Derived from the Latin word “centr,” meaning “center,” Central can’t possibly be represented by the building that can’t even be seen outside of Franklin, except for its spire barely rising above the trees.

To the many souls who have asked me where I am staying on campus, I have often paused before answering. Central doesn’t even begin to describe where I am. Yet I’m not exactly on Orchard Hill. Maybe the Eastside is a better term to describe it? Who knows.

But beyond the flawed naming conventions, life on the hill itself is a struggle. The biggest downside is the fact that a trip to the dining hall requires one to trudge down a steep path to only lug themselves up that very same steep path later. Franklin may only be a 0.3 mile walk away, but from experience, the elevation makes the trek feel much longer. If Southwest Residential Area can have Berkshire and Hampshire Dining Commons within reliable walking distance, there ought to be at least one sustainable option for meals serving the Orchard Hill and hill-top portion of Central.

Although all dorms on top of the hill share the same pain, the residents of Orchard Hill knew what they were getting themselves into. While surely the designations had made sense once upon a time, isn’t it time to redo the naming for campus residential areas as they are today?

Muskan Kumar can be reached at [email protected]