The Guilfordian

Letter to the editor: The Hut

What’s in a name? We recently observed Veterans Day, which once was called Armistice Day, a celebration of the end of a devastating war. Now the focus of November 11, while rightly honoring selfless service, gives little attention to peace and the horrors of war.

The College has recently announced another name change: the Hut will become Rachel’s Rose Cottage. Honoring a beloved alumna of more than a century ago, the name will eventually obscure what the Hut once represented in the lives of students. From 1991 to 2017, the Hut was the center of vital campus spiritual life. Open 24/7 and hosting a multifaith community of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Baha’is, Unitarian-Universalists, Pagan Mystics and others, it was symbolically at the center of campus, even as the belief in the Inward Light in all people is at the center of Quaker belief and practice.

The Hut had coffee and tea at the ready around the clock, as well as snacks left over from the constant groups, classes and other events held there. Re-purposing the Hut into a coffee shop may offer better coffee and a more “upscale” space than the funky “living room” atmosphere the Hut once provided, but I doubt it will offer the profound spiritual space that so many alumni have witnessed to as they have learned of the loss of yet another informal student/faculty gathering space.

Coffee shops notoriously operate on a slender margin. And now the vibrant spiritual life once present in the Hut has been sent to the margins of the College’s life. Conversations about and experiences of the Ground of Being will be replaced by coffee grounds. It’s more than a name change. It’s a change in focus from what’s at the Center to what’s on the periphery.


Max L. Carter

Guilford College faculty 1990 – 2015

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2 Responses to “Letter to the editor: The Hut”

  1. Ellen on November 19th, 2018 4:16 am

    I would like to voice my support for the concerns Max has expressed as he can do best. If the Hut was the Center of campus, Max was pretty close, too!

    As the college makes hard choices about financial priorities, I fear these intangible benefits–some of which attract new students, some of which make for loyal alumni who leave Guilford convinced that they got something there they couldn’t have gotten most other places–are too easily overlooked. For my part, I have given to the college in recent years in memory of faculty who have passed away, but I am reluctant to donate when I see how money is being spent to create a resort for students who will leave with hefty debts.

    Although not a Quaker in any formal sense, I came to Guilford very much as a seeker interested in the tradition that inspired George Fox and others throughout history to take a stand for their beliefs and work as a force for good in the world. I was intrigued by the ideas of decision-making via consensus and getting into touch with an inner spark of the Divine in us all. I attended morning worship in the Hut and meetings in the Moon Room–not as often as I should have in retrospect!–and I cherished the interactions with Max and other students in seminars around the fireplace in the Hut. I’d like to think I’m the kind of student that Guilford wanted–and I was put off by the shiny, superficial advertising of so many other schools that landed in our mailbox my senior year of high school. Guilford was one of the colleges that seemed to be somehow unique and aware of that uniqueness, and I have watched with sadness as it seems to me that this awareness has flickered over the last two decades since my graduation. When Jane Fernandes came and there was a resurgence of media regarding the school’s Quaker heritage, I took it as a positive sign, but more recently I only see stories about new construction and remodeling projects.

    Buildings must be renovated and maintained, and students should have suitable places to live, meet, and work on campus. Do they need palm trees? Do they need double mocha lattes with fat-free soy milk? I have my reservations, but I do know that I needed what the Hut had to offer when I was a student at Guilford, and that the college needs to foster its unique character if it is to remain viable. Perhaps an institution can carry a spark within, as well, but, like the fire on the hearth in the Hut’s iconic fireplace, it must be stoked and tended.

  2. Z on November 19th, 2018 8:21 pm

    I wish that the administration truly showed they listened to the concerns of alumnus and former students. I understand the supposed need for a coffee shop on campus but does it have to remove what was once the most welcoming of spaces on campus. On a campus that works so hard to be welcoming, the Hut was even more welcoming than anything I had ever experienced.

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