Duncan Student Center: an underwhelming experience
A few months in, how does the new center stack up?
Both before and after its completion, controversy has circulated around the Campus Crossroads project. Many have questioned its necessity to the school and its high price tag. Others, published in the Rover and elsewhere, have extolled its new features and cushy amenities.
Call me a cynic, but I fall into the former camp. This is not just because I think the very idea of such a gargantuan use of resources for such a construction project seems wasteful and decadent—though, to be sure, it does. I don’t even think it even succeeds in providing a desirable space for the Notre Dame community.
It is hard to give a holistic review about what is wrong with the project—but then again, there does not seem to have been much of a holistic idea for what was to be built in the first place.
In the Duncan Student Center, there are a plethora of generic “student spaces”—only about one or two of which are in use at any given time. There are large numbers of long hallways without any clear destination. (Indeed, the entire elongated structure of the building renders any approach to a destination much longer and time-consuming than one would expect. There is one main staircase in the very center. Even the running track bizarrely snakes through the building like a labyrinthine hotel hallway.) There are no printers. There are strange art installations. There is an enormous screen—the price of which I do not want to imagine—that is used 95% of the time to simply display the fact that you are in the Duncan Student Center. There is glittering chrome and cheap drywall.
The food vendors in the Center are quite hip—gelato and avocado toast are good, most would agree! And it is hard to complain about more variety on campus. Yet given their high prices, extremely limited hours, and—I hate to sound like a snob—inauthentic feel (I believe the crêpes served at the Hagerty Family Café are pre-made, and simply heated up on the grill), I still find it difficult to be enthusiastic.
More to the point, the Center seems like a place which, while ostensibly designed for the students, seemed to have their needs in mind more as an afterthought. The new student radio stations (I happen to be an announcer for one of them, WSND-FM), aside from being much smaller than their former locations, happen to be located directly under a great deal of exercise equipment, causing the whole station to vibrate occasionally when broadcasting.
I have heard from friends in the Climbing Club that the new rock climbing wall—brand new, with a curiously slanted glass wall looking down at, uh, coffee house tables—was yet another undesired replacement for the beloved wall at the Rock. (And, needless to say, the lack of a Chick-Fil-A in the building was a disappointment for many.)
Depending on who you are, these comments might seem insignificant and reactionary. But one expects such a pricey, hyped-up building to be well designed, and this one isn’t. From the malfunctioning elevators (which have, to date, ruined multiple dances), some of which only access the floors forbidden to students; to the doors to RecSports, which, for several weeks were put on backwards, causing the facility to be unlocked for a time; the outcome of the enterprise leaves a lot to be desired. Color me unimpressed.
James Rahner is a junior currently living in Keenan Hall. He has been very impressed with the wide variety of gelato flavors at the Hagerty Family Café. To share what your favorite his, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.