When I went to the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, we ate on Old Side of Peirce. It is, after all, prominently featured on Kenyon’s website. My mom called it “the Harry Potter room”; I knew it as the room where a girl once told me (joked?) that my eyes looked great underneath stained glass. Naturally, I liked Old Side.
As a freshman here, I sat in New Side (or Lower Peirce which I include in New Side) just because that’s where my friends were. It wasn’t until some friends started pledging that I noticed a divide. They would dine with their fraternity, and one such friend informed me that, as a non-pledge, I wasn’t supposed to join. When unaffiliated friends convinced me to eat in Old Side with them, we got stares. It wasn’t like we’d be kicked out or ostracized, but some made it clear that we weren’t “supposed” to be there.
Old Side, populated as it is by sports teams and Greek societies, is the entrenched side, for those who are, to some extent, their group. “Opinions columnist” is not part of my public identity the way “basketball player” would be. New Side is basically “everyone else.”
In a recent class discussion on the “rules of love” at Kenyon (it’s a weird class), someone said Old Siders and New Siders shouldn’t date. When asked why, she argued they just come from too different of worlds, and they wouldn’t see each other enough.
Her sentiment isn’t unsound. If you take part in athletics or Greek life, most of your time and friends will be occupied with or involved in that group, due to constant proximity and mutual interests. But that’s also limiting. A fraternity or sorority member/athlete in Old Kenyon would have a hard enough time dating a Kenyon Review intern in an NCA, besides the fact that they couldn’t eat together often because he or she goes to meals with his or her teammates after practice or dines with his or her brothers/sisters.
But it’s absolutely reasonable that teams and Greeks prefer to keep Old Side to themselves. Group meals are good bonding time and teams, fraternities and sororities capitalize on this. It would be hard to arrange seating for a large group if anyone sat anywhere. Try fitting 15 friends at one table on New Side, or even two tables pushed together. Now imagine doing that for every sport and Greek organization on campus. A pre-ordained area with bench tables is much simpler.
And it’s nice to be surrounded by people who also pledged much of their time to a group. On a campus that constantly brings up how a cappella concerts have greater turnouts than sporting events, and that undeniably has students who have no interest in and even harbor animosity towards Greek life, this kinship makes sense. If I’d joined a team or rushed, I might’ve argued explicitly for the insularity of Old Side.
I’m an idealist. New Side is attractive with an incredible view, but sometimes I wish I could regularly sit in Old Side with friends from Young Writers and reminisce. Ultimately, though, I don’t mind the divide. It’s probably the most practical way of going about things, so I don’t feel alienated, just uninvolved — which I am. As long as we avoid that weird elitism which naturally accompanies an “us vs. them” mentality, I’m of the mind to live and let live.
But if I pop in Old Side for the memories sometime … if you pretend I run track, I won’t tell anyone I saw you skipping team dinner to hit on someone in Peirce Pub.
Derek Dashiell ’16 is an English major from Lakewood, OH. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.