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The Campanile

The Campanile

Student Center, home of hot lunch, brown stains, dies at age 50

Art by Hannah Singer

The Student Center, once loved by many and frequented by all, died in the fall of 2016. Why its hollowed-out corpse is still standing is beyond comprehension.

The Student Center – built sometime between 1940 and 1980 – is too old to be functional or merit a revamp and is too young to be protected because it is historical. At one point, it fostered creativity, gave shelter from the Palo Alto cold (relatively speaking) and housed art from students across the campus. 

Now, the only creativity it has is physical: How can I sit on this chair without touching the multi-hued, sticky brown spots on the seat, backrest and left armrest? And because ofglobal warming Palo Alto rarely goes below 45°F, so “shelter from the cold” doesn’t feel like a valid reason to have a huge, hulking brown deformity staring down our quad, ruining the view and forcing students to take detours to avoid it. 

Let’s be honest – no one goes through the Student Center to get to class quicker; they just skirt carefully around it and add a minute to their walk. And the only art it now houses is pen graffiti, stained wrappers and dirt trails carefully scuffed by anxious feet. How contemporary.

Sure, the Student Center is used as more than a cavernous dump. Both brunch and lunch is provided from deep within its bowels. How about instead of redoing our turf fields every three months we replace some of the grungy remnants of Paly’s past? Instead of what stands in the center of our campus now, why don’t we rebuild? Let’s not repurpose, though. The options and potential are nearly infinite.

If we need somewhere to serve hot lunch, why don’t we build a cafeteria – what high school doesn’t have one? Big windows, nice (or at least clean) tables. Let’s take some pointers from the MAC, some from the PAC, perhaps more from the library. 

And if we want a multipurpose space (and who doesn’t love buildings reminiscent of Swiss army knives), add a balcony and showcase the paintings that are drooping from the lack of attention in the library’s hallway. Paintings in a building full of meandering students who would rather stay than go to class will garner much more attention than those in a breezeway people only use when they’re late. 

Best of all, we could use the Student Center as a second study area, albeit louder. . If the student center had a solid set-up, with smaller and bigger tables, it could be used both as a dining hall and a study center. During class periods, people could work and study during their preps. During lunch, the building could be an alternative to either starving yourself to study or cramming some food down your gullet right before class. 

The Student Center has so much potential, and everyone knows real estate here isn’t cheap. The Student Center is a colossal waste of space and an architectural travesty Paly students shouldn’t have to put up with anymore. 

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