Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Returning to Campus Reveals Tradition Endures

BY ALL ACCOUNTS Returning to Campus Reveals Tradition Endures

December 4, 2016. “I went back to [Georgetown] not long ago, and found it looking oddly newer than when I was a student there fifteen years before. It seemed more sedate than I remembered it, more perpendicular and straight-laced, with narrower windows and shinier woodwork, as though a coat of varnish had been put over everything for better preservation. But, of course, fifteen years before there had been a war going on. Perhaps the school wasn’t as well kept up in those days; perhaps varnish, along with everything else, had gone to war.”

I had owned the campus back then, at least that’s how it felt as I came and went through the doors, hallways and stairways that glued the place together. Every day I had marched through the Healy archway, each time stepping on the mosaic seal and doing my part to squash an enduring but baseless tradition.

I see now that the tradition endures, as traditions usually do, as a few students – they look like freshmen, but most students do – gingerly step around as if there’s a six-foot-deep puddle in their path.

Walking through Dahlgren quad, the sun glistens off the stained glass and polished wood of the chapel, and it looks even more like a relic than it did when I was a student. One of the double doors is open, and I see darkness inside.

I reach my destination at Village C, but can’t get through the door. I tell the guard I want to see the cinderblock lounge on the sixth-floor with durable all-weather carpeting and a rickety ledge where I met my first college friends. She stares disinterestedly in my direction and pretends not to know who I am.

Where there was once a vast hole, there’s now a vast building complex and I’m not sure which I like more. The hole was complete, impressive and a promise of progress. The Southwest Quad is huge, tidy, functional and sterile. I guess we believed that progress was a commodity, nothing more than bricks, steel and glass.

Inside those walls, the same things happen every year, the same things that happen in every dorm, in every college.

“In the deep, tacit way in which feeling becomes stronger than thought, I had always felt that [Georgetown] came into existence the day I entered it, was vibrantly real while I was a student there, and then blinked out like a candle the day I left.”

Sitting in The Tombs, I remember the people who inhabited the campus those days, the do-gooders and do-not-as-gooders, the people I liked and disliked, knew and didn’t know. And I feel like I know the kids in the booth next to me, talking about the big term paper due Friday, the big party this weekend and the big basketball game last night – all in one breath. They’re talking and saying nothing, as we all liked to do.

Listening in for another moment, I hear what they are saying – they’re afraid. They’re scared of saying something meaningful, scared of letting too much of themselves out, or more than that, scared of finding out who they are.

That’s why the bricks are washed and the mortar is freshened every summer. It’s why the woodwork glistens more and more each year. The more sterile the environment, the more sterile its products, and as long as the hallways keep on getting their wax, everyone who wants to can just slide on through.

Quotes from A Separate Peace by John Knowles (1926-2001).

By All Accounts appears every Tuesday in The Hoya. The author can be reached at haggertythehoya.com.

Donate to The Hoya

Your donation will support the student journalists of Georgetown University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hoya