Letter to the editor:
I listlessly scrolled through my email inbox when this excerpt caught my eye:
“Blackburn House demolition in the North Residential District is scheduled to begin Monday (11/10). Demolition will take place over the course of several days and will be carried out by heavy construction equipment. Please understand there may be additional noise and dust in the area during this time.”
Nostalgia made me pause — this announcement was eminent, but still stung. I flashed back to moving in on Sept. 15, 2011, my freshman year. Blackburn was my first home in a jungle of diverse people, challenging classes and powerful memories. Since then, I’ve moved off-campus with two guys I met in the dorm. As a senior, all my classes are now in Fisher, so I walk back by Blackburn regularly. Today when I passed by, instead of mindlessly thumbing through my iPhone, I reminisced on what the area means to me, to fellow students and to Ohio State.
As most people will tell you, there’s an entirely different vibe, social style and academic mindset of students who live on North Campus, where Blackburn once stood. A good friend of mine, who came to OSU a year before me, advised me to live on South Campus. He told me North Campus was lame.
But my mom urged me to join a scholars program living community. When I received an oversized acceptance letter in the mail to the Environment & Natural Resources Scholars Program, I couldn’t help but be excited. Calling myself a “scholar” sounded delightfully prestigious, the housing boasted air conditioning and I would get scheduling preferences on one condition — live in Blackburn House.
My student engagement and community involvement experience was drastically altered by this condition, though initially I refused to believe it. I ignorantly convinced myself that I single-handedly could liven up the quiet community with a few try-hard smiles and over zealous “hellos”. So as soon as I arrived in my cubbyhole of a room, I rushed to plug in my speakers and ignited my intrepid rap anthem, “If I Can’t” by 50 Cent. I left my clunky door open, letting the lyrics, “If I can’t do it homie, it can’t be done, I’ma let the champagne bottle pop, I’ma take you to the top,” waft down the windowless hallway. Surely fellow freshmen would hear it and stop in to meet their new, cool neighbor. Instead, I was curtly asked by an unenthused girl to either turn it down or close the door.
I quickly learned blasting music is not the best way to make friends, and it remained difficult to find friends in Blackburn for multiple reasons. First of all, the location was a hike from the best quality food and major landmarks on campus like Sloopy’s at the Union or the basketball courts at the RPAC. So when students left their rooms, they tended to migrate south rather than hang around and populate the immediate area. Also, Blackburn’s physical structure was nearly just as dark and dreary as its namesake. A rickety elevator, yellowing bricks, few windows and a squat, boxy exterior were hardly inspiring. Looking back, I do not believe the students there were inherently any less sociable from South or West Campus residents, but our environment undeniably affected us.
Moving into this new environment stirred up a dusty haze of uncertainty about who my true friends were and who I was. But with time, I improved my relationship building skills and learned a great deal about myself. Vast differences in music taste, life goals, social habits and countless more interests made finding commonalties daunting, but also made me cherish relationships when I did find them. I learned all it takes is one commonality in order to strike up a conversation, which can then lead to a friendship. Finding opportunities to spark these pivotal conversations is the hard part, and I sincerely hope the new North Campus dorms will facilitate more openness and community engagement. That’s not to say Blackburn was entirely stagnant, it showed flashes of liveliness on occasion.
The first girl I ever kissed in college also lived in Blackburn House. One evening the resident advisers hosted a game night in the lobby of an adjacent North Campus dorm for students to enjoy and get to meet fellow residents in the area. This was around January, so I was surprised after months of living in the same place that I hardly recognized many of the people there. Where in the woodwork had they been hiding? I sat down at a card table and immediately noticed this girl was cute because she had a big smile and was confident when she spoke. In a relatively reclusive community, she was a rebel who dared to introduce herself. That introduction led to meeting up at Park Street on a Thursday night, which led back to Blackburn together. Thank you to those RAs who hosted game night.
They say when Blackburn is knocked down, there will be “additional noise and dust in the area.” But for those who once lived there, we know there has always been noise wafting down the halls and clouds of uncertainty hanging in the area. While the experience was challenging at times, it forced me to grow up and think for myself. For what Blackburn House lacked in aesthetics and location, it made up for by instilling in me a spirit of resilience and realization. When I return years from now I won’t be able to point and say, “that was my old dormitory.” But that’s OK because I’m happy to see the area growing and evolving just like I did.
Fourth-year in marketing