With the future of on-campus instruction being uncertain due to growing coronavirus concerns, the Student Center Programs Council (SCPC) decided to throw together a student center farewell event on Friday, March 13.
The original event was scheduled for April 27, but since it remains unclear if students will be able to come back to campus in time for a proper goodbye to the student center, which is set to close and undergo renovations this summer, SCPC planned the event earlier to allow students time to bid farewell to the central campus building.
Josh Thrift, third-year ChemE, who serves as the Vice President of Campus Relations and Recruitment for SCPC explained that their original plans for the farewell event were stalled as news came out about the potential transition to online classes for the remainder of the semester.
“Maybe [the farewell] wasn’t the one we originally expected. We were hoping to have a whole day packed with activities and performances that led into our last Midnight Breakfast in the building for the next 2 years. So instead of putting on the event, which would have been planned over the whole semester, we threw this one together in a few hours. But it was still something I think the students needed,” said Thrift.
Tech Rec was filled with music, meandering students and messages scrawled on the walls in acrylic paint. The normally plain white walls of the dimly lit tabled area that hosted many trivia nights, bingo games and watch parties throughout the years were covered with painted goodbyes from students and faculty alike.
Lindsay Rogers, second-year BME, who serves as the Arts and Culture Committee Chair for SCPC commented on the swift changes to campus life and how the event played a part in ensuring students had an opportunity to see the space one last time.
“Friday was a very bittersweet day. There were so many small things I thought I’d have more time to do: spend time in the Student Center, hang out with my out-of-state friends, figure out final goodbyes to my graduating friends. It all seemed to happen so fast, and the whirlwind of emotions left me, and I’m sure many other students, feeling lost and despondent. But being there, painting on those walls that I might never see again, surrounded by so many other students doing the same, I felt at peace” said Rogers.
The event served as a break from reality during the stressful past couple of days. With conflicting messages from the Tech administration on the fate of on-campus classes after March 29, students soaked in preemptive goodbyes to the student center which served as a central symbol to some during their years at Tech.
Imane Mokri, fifth-year ME, has worked at Tech Rec since the Fall 2018 semester and commented on her time there.
“Even before I worked at Tech Rec, it was a place where my friends and I would go to hang out or play games, especially during Free Play Mondays. We would go there between classes and bowl or play billiards as long as we could. It’s nice to get away from the constant studying and just enjoy ourselves ” said Mokri.
As the event went on, more and more messages and masterpieces made their way onto the walls of Tech Rec. While some simply just signed their names, others wrote messages that represented their respective organizations on campus. Members of groups including the Muslim Student Association, FASET Staff and Yellow Jacket Roller Derby, left their marks and posed for pictures.
Many memes and joking sentiments sprawled on the walls showed the true spirit of the student body during these stressful times. Messages such as “It be like that sometimes,” “Corona saved me from ME 2110,” and “H.A.G.S” — an acronym for “Have A Great Summer” — represented the light humor some students shared over a situation that was out of their control.
“No matter what Georgia Tech goes through, we will always have this community filled with so many unique and wonderful students. Even if the Student Center is gone and we are all online, that will never erase who we are and what this student body is capable of, and I think the art sprawl along Tech Rec’s walls is a testament to that” said Rogers.
At the time of the event, it was not yet confirmed whether students would be able to return back to campus this semester, but some graduating students were already coming to terms that Friday may have been their last time stepping on campus as a student.
“I think I speak for a majority of seniors when I say the whole farewell — to the Student Center and GT as a whole — was more bitter than sweet. Everyone’s always so eager to get to the end, to graduate, to move on with life, but I hated to see it end like this. I feel like my last semester at Tech was cut too short. … I personally wished I made better use of my last days with all the people I care about” said Mokri.
“I feel awful for all the graduating students who worked painstaking hours on end to get where they’re at, only to have their final, celebratory months cut short. Saying goodbye is something we all have to come to terms with, but to have it come so soon and so unexpectedly feels like you’ve been handed an old, rusty scrap of metal when you were expecting a trophy,” said Thrift.
The current student center, as the campus community knows it, will change this summer as the Campus Center Project transitions into Phase II of the nearly two year long project. During this time, critical functions from the student center will transition to new buildings as renovations take place, with essential services being moved to the exhibition hall and a building currently being constructed near the original student center. The student center will not reopen until the end of the construction period, which is expected to last until Fall 2022.
“Maybe this won’t be the final goodbye, and by some miracle, we can still come back to campus and host the event we hope for. But just in case, we held this event so that the people who were able to attend could at least have some semblance of a proper goodbye, not just to the building, but to ‘Gech,’ and to all the people we’ve come to love” said Thrift.