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Observer Editorial: Keep Dalloway’s a student space

| Friday, October 4, 2019

Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

On opening night, students sit in low light, smoking cigarettes and waiting for the band to arrive. Fresh coffee brewed in the back, dripping hot and black into miniature espresso cups. Gathered around tables, students lean in close to hear each other over the din of shared stories and laughter. It’s 1992, and Clarissa Dalloway’s party had just begun.

Fast forward a decade. Though the festivities continue, the venue has changed. At its new location on the Avenue, Clarissa Dalloway’s Coffeehouse – otherwise known as D-Way’s – is the “place to be on Wednesday nights” at Saint Mary’s (according to former operations manager Katie White (’07). The schedule is packed: karaoke, poetry readings, outdoor concerts, Wheel of Fortune, murder mystery games, book club meetings, movie marathons, Casino Night, the Valentine’s Day Dating Game, a haunted house and more. Although Dalloway’s has expanded, it hasn’t outgrown its original purpose: a cozy on-campus spot for a cup of coffee and a conversation with friends.

Fast forward to the present. The coffeehouse itself still stands alongside the Avenue, but it’s a different Dalloway’s than what alumnae fondly remember as a familiar, well-used student space. From 2017 to 2018, it served as a temporary office space for the Saint Mary’s Athletic Department during the construction of Angela Athletic & Wellness Complex. Called Dalloway’s Clubhouse, it now serves as an event space rented out for luncheons, meetings, seminars and workshops.

It has been a long time since that last Wednesday at D-Way’s, but students might want to start clearing their calendars. Saint Mary’s Student Government Association recently confirmed they are working on the reinstallation of Dalloway’s. As SGA converses with the College administration and Sodexo, we hope they remember the original purpose of the coffeehouse and encourage them to fight to keep Dalloway’s a student space.

At the time of its creation, Dalloway’s was introduced as a “student-initiated, student-operated” project. For Peggy Abood, class of 1992 and creator of Dalloway’s, the coffeehouse was always intended to be a space dedicated to the Saint Mary’s community, operated by and for the students.

“This is our thing, this is ours,” she said.

It is important for students to have a space separate from academic, athletic and residence halls — somewhere more personal and private than an administrative building. Dalloway’s provided a space for students to speak their minds and share ideas outside of the classroom. It created community like only a coffeehouse could.

Student spaces introduce a sense of ownership and invite students to love something so much they feel responsible to take care of it for the next generation. This is incredibly important for students no matter the institution they attend — Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame or Holy Cross.

In a 1992 Saint Mary’s Courier article covering opening night at Dalloway’s, class of 1993 graduate Delia Garcia said the coffeehouse was a sign of growth from both Saint Mary’s students and the College itself.

“It shows that students are beginning to answer their own questions,” Garcia said. “‘Why don’t we have a space on campus to relax?’ students always asked. ‘Because we haven’t created one,’ we say now.”

Today, Saint Mary’s students are asking the same questions alumnae wanted answered more than two decades ago: Where can I get a good cup of coffee? Where can I go to just hang out without having to use a swipe or spend Munch Money? Why do I always have to go across the street to have fun?

This is not to say Belles will stop making the trek down Saint Mary’s Road. The tailgates, SYRs and dorm parties of the Notre Dame social scene will always be a treasured part of Saint Mary’s and the tri-campus culture. However, Belles should still have options for fun and leisure on their own campus.

In the past, Dalloway’s not only offered a space for Saint Mary’s students, but also opened the door to Notre Dame and Holy Cross visitors who came to listen to a new student band, play a round in the Dating Game or simply sit and chat with friends.

We are excited to see Saint Mary’s SGA re-open Dalloway’s and look forward to the third generation of student leaders taking ownership of this beloved piece of Saint Mary’s history, and enjoy it well into the future.

Clarissa Dalloway never wanted her party to end, so why would we let it?

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