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Friday, April 19, 2024

Community space as culture: An exploration of the Quad

Where students kick back, incite social change 

If there was ever a space that symbolized the essence of what UC Davis is, was and should be, it must be the beloved Quad. It is our Statue of Liberty, our Hanging Gardens of Babylon and our Louvre. West Quad, East Quad, left or right, it makes no difference to our student body where you’re located; when you’re on the Quad, you are staunchly and simply on the Quad. The beauty of our university and the allure of campus life are deftly embodied within the few hundred feet of green nestled between the CoHo and Shields Library. 

But what exactly is the culture of the Quad? In truth, it is hard to pin down. So much of the beauty that resonates from the space comes from its multitudes. Every group — academic, cultural, social and economic — is represented on the Quad. In many ways, it is the great equalizer, a cultural slate where all, even for a split moment in time, are as one. It is the soft chatter of sorority women complaining about date parties, it is a squabble of engineers confused about an assignment, it is new faces in checkered pants yelling about this weekend’s Turtle House show. The Quad takes our huddled masses and shines a mirror back to them, reflecting an image of our student body seen nowhere else — one that is just as dynamic as the brochures make it out to be. 

“It is the communal watering hole of UC Davis,” said Sabrina Bloch, a second-year human development major.

One big unifying factor, however, is the leisurely quality of the Quad itself. Once one steps onto the rich green pasture (with only a few splotches of yellowed grass), it is as if a veil is sprung. Reminiscent of only the finest of health spas, one immediately feels relaxed, taking in fine blades of grass below and tall trees overhead. 

 “It’s my favorite place to soak up the sun,” said Sarah Bjerkholt, a third-year sociology major.

Responsibility melts away, however temporarily, when you plop down in the Quad. An escape from the enduring specter that is the daily grind, the ever-looming spirit of more work, more socializing — one that goes away when you are on the quad. Your brain can, for once, take a breather. But more importantly, so can the soul.

Another thing that people love about the Quad is its central location. 

“The Quad is central to everything happening around Davis,” said Jack Hyslop, a second-year environmental science major. “It invites people to relax and rally around issues important to the students.” 

Its location at the heart of campus makes it ideal for kicking back, but, on the other hand, it is an optimal space to incite social change.

Although the Quad is a haven of relaxation, it is also the home to many social movements on campus. The Sunrise Movement often advocates on the Quad for The Green New Deal and a resolution to climate change. Along with students surveying for projects and classes, the Quad becomes an extension of the student body itself, a sort of Times Square for UC Davis, without the famously overpriced hot dogs. The culture of the Quad is one of those who inhabit it, varying wildly throughout the day. 

Although other universities have ivy-clad buildings, massive sprawling structures and an emphasis on the excessive, UC Davis takes a different approach. There is no need to have blatant architectural testaments to create a sense of place; we can find the very essence of community on a simple, large patch of green grass. This is indicative of not only the culture of the Quad, but of our university as a whole. There is a distinct absence of ”hype” and, in many ways, this is how things should be in a collegiate system.

 No puffing of the chest and no crazy hooks, the true value of a university education should be based on the quality of time spent, and not on the bread and circuses many use to distract from that. In many ways, the culture of the Quad is the culture of UC Davis — refined, reliable, a hidden gem — where one can relax just as much as they can engage. 

Written by: Ilya Shrayber — arts@theaggie.org

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