Article Written by David Hall
There’s a little house on the northwestern edge of campus called Augusta Hall. It’s simple. In the living room there’s a big window overlooking North Market Street and every day at sunset light pours through that window onto the old shaggy carpet inside.
During my sophomore year at Roanoke that house was my home, my sanctuary, and my playplace. It was a place where I made lifelong friends, carved my future, laughed, cried, cried some more, and laughed even more after crying some more. It was a place where good things were almost always happening, where friends gathered and caring people planned the next good deed. It was the home of the Peace and Social Justice Living Learning Community which comprised of 8, then 6 people who spent and spend most of their time for the benefit of others.
Yesterday I was on a run with my best friend Mackay, reminiscing. Specifically, we talked about the final hours before a protest we (mostly him) had organized. Mackay and I sat at our kitchen table and doing grassroots work, frantically calling and messaging hundreds of people while our friends listened to protest songs and made signs in the living room. “It’s one of my favorite memories of us,” Mackay said to me on the run. We talked about how the collective of faculty and students possessed a positively electric anticipation that’s hard to reproduce, but it is easy to remember.
Mackay and I often go on runs together. It’s one of our consistent bonding rituals that also include playing Star Wars: Battlefront on Mackay’s Xbox, always accompanied by tortilla chips, Newman’s Own salsa, and Coca Cola.
At the end of what was my freshman and Mackay’s sophomore year, Mackay who already lived in Augusta pulled me into the community having known about my interest in social issues through my involvement in the newly formed Beekeeping Society. I was content to live in the house, but I was blissfully unaware that house would become the sight of some of my fondest Roanoke memories, memories that would take me all the pages of this paper to remember properly.
Because the possession of a house is rare among Roanoke students, Augusta became the defacto home base for our many activities on campus. As respective presidents of two environmental organizations, Mackay and I became quite the team, leading our rather new clubs in ambitious endeavors across campus.
Then, midway through Spring of 2016, we found out that we would not be allowed to continue the community next year. Residence Life had decided to mix up Living Learning Communities and needed the space in Augusta for a program called Language Consultants International or LCI, for short. LCI is a fantastic program the college partners with to bring International students to the United States.
These students were to live in Augusta so they could avoid alienation and stick together in what surely would have been a rewarding, but also terrifying experience. We were obviously upset to lose Augusta, but after a meeting with the heads of Residence Life we were at least relatively content knowing it would be used to house some other fellow misfits in need of a home, a community.
Except, the students from LCI don’t actually live in Augusta Hall, or at least they don’t anymore. As early as late October, Augusta Hall was being used for a haunted house. Then in recent months I noticed offices for the Center for Teaching the Rule of Law moved in. The Center is another great organization the college sponsors. Before moving into the little house on Market Street they already had offices, on College Avenue above Campus safety.
I’m not here to condemn and I’m not here to indict people who simply are doing their job the best they can with the resources they’re allocated. I’m here to tell my story. I’m here to simply say that there existed a beautiful, successful community of dedicated students on campus that does not exist anymore, the kind of community that I believe Roanoke College stands before and stands behind.
Community, like the one that existed in Augusta, is the reason I came to Roanoke, the reason I continue to go to Roanoke, and the reason I will continue to advocate for its missions in the future.
Although I’m not here to idict, I am indignant. And if I can be candid, the handling of Augusta Hall this past year is a short-sighted blunder that not only upsets me personally, but ought to upset anyone that believes in the institution’s mission. It may be a little house, but it’s a big symbol.