Concerned Alumni Write Open Letter Regarding Barn’s Closure

Dear Connecticut College Administration and Community,

 

We write to you now as alumni and former members of MOBROC to express our profound disappointment at the news of the MOBROC Barn’s closure. We first became aware of this issue thanks to The College Voice’s coverage and would like to take this time to share just what the Barn has meant to us and why we believe its closure is both inconsistent with Conn’s values and damaging to those qualities that set it apart from other schools.

As a performance space, the Barn is central to MOBROC’s identity as an organization. In a club with sparse funding—it was necessary for us to collect dues each semester just to afford our own equipment—having a space to practice, perform and call our own contributed to the sense of community that exists between all members, past and present.

Whether we came to Conn already planning to join or found our way in after arriving, the existence of MOBROC as part of a larger, vibrant music scene gave us something that we simply couldn’t have gotten at any other NESCAC school. The Barn gave students a space to express themselves and meet others in ways they might not have gotten a chance to otherwise. Our bands have played at Floralia, provided entertainment at various campus events, built connections with the New London community and hosted many free concerts in the Barn for all students to attend. In that respect, MOBROC Barn shows have frequently presented a welcome alternative to Conn’s often-limited social scene. From within that scene have come several successful bands, like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Shake the Baron. It seems an insult to their legacy, to Conn’s legacy, to shutter the building to popular events.

Practicing, painting the walls and, indeed, playing shows was for many of us a highlight of our college careers. That’s why we were so grateful when, two years ago, the college refurbished the Barn with a new coat of paint and some much-needed fixes. It’s also why we were so alarmed to hear that it is to be closed to shows indefinitely.

As the Voice reported it, a campus safety officer arrived at the Barn during a show to find it overcrowded and full of people drinking from open containers. We agree that the described situation was unsafe, but we nevertheless question the approach the administration took to resolve it. During our time at Conn we took great pains to self-police, and more than one of us can recall instances in which we’ve had to bar people from entering if they were too rowdy or if the Barn was already at capacity. After all, it was in our interest to keep the Barn clean and secure. We were the ones responsible for cleanup after a show and who had to come back there to practice the following day. We don’t claim to have done this job perfectly all the time, but we always took it seriously.

Alongside other great events like improv shows, a cappella concerts, athletics events, dance shows and Cro dances, MOBROC Barn shows occupy a prominent corner of Conn’s social life. But only with respect to Barn shows does the administration appear unwilling to take on a supporting role, choosing instead to employ punitive measures that only serve to dampen the use of a valuable and inclusive environment. It represents an unwillingness to share responsibility for the space, and through that unwillingness the college loses far more than it gains. It seems to us like a more sensible way to solve this problem would be to increase coordination between MOBROC officers and campus safety to facilitate compromises, rather than heavy handed sanctions. To do otherwise implies that the college views members of the club as part of the problem, rather than as people who are both eager and able to help with a solution.

Throughout our careers at Conn, and well before, the Barn has served as an important event space and cultural landmark. It is singled out on campus tours and exists as a strong word-of-mouth selling point for the college. As Conn is taking steps to diversify and deepen its social offerings, the Barn is well-suited to play a role in those efforts. The college benefits from having more social spaces, not fewer. It’s worth restating that the pillar of MOBROC’s values is community. We would like to believe that Conn’s administration shares that focus.

To that end, we implore the administration to reconsider its decision to close the Barn and instead pursue a constructive path forward that does not involve the disassembly of a much-loved campus institution. To quote student body president Ramzi Kaiss, “I think in the future the Barn should continue to serve as a space for students to socialize, make music, and have a good time. Given the limited amount of available spaces on campus, it is imperative to keep the Barn open and operating.” We concur.

 

Sincerely and respectfully,

 

Cory Scarola ‘16,

Michael Amato ‘16

Katherine McDonald ‘16

Julia Hooker ‘15

Liz de Lise ‘13

Connor Storms ‘15

Jon Markson ‘12

Bo Clay ‘15

Laura Cianciolo ‘16

Matthew Whiman ‘15

Nick Fischetti ‘16

Drew André ‘16

Jake Summers ‘16

James Stephen O’Connor ‘15