Removing Basic Furniture from Barrows is Security Theater

Barrows Hall is infamously terrible. It’s hot in the summer, inexplicably hot and cold at the same time in the winter, and the showers’ lights are literally filled with bugs. It’s the building I call home. I’ve made many friends here, played many board games here, and eaten many meals here. It’s really grown on me. But then disaster struck: they took away our tables. 

“Really?” you might ask. “That’s ‘disaster’ to you?” While it may not be a tsunami or asteroid strike, it’s a disaster to me and my friends. We can’t play a board game without the game touching the filthy, disgusting, decades-old carpeting. When it’s raining, everyone’s inside, so if we can’t get a couch we have to sit on the ground. And worst of all is our homework. Personally, I really hate doing homework in my room. Wilder is filled with everyone I’ve ever met, ever; getting a table is harder than climbing Mount Everest barefoot. So our only option for doing homework is now the ground. All because they took away our tables. 

I emailed ResEd. They said they removed the tables for safety reasons, and they’ll be replaced by TV trays eventually — but not before the end of the semester, when we could use them. And I understand the need to keep people socially distant: I’ve had a lump of anxiety in my throat for a year now. We all have. But taking our tables away is security theater — doing something that makes people (or higher-ups) feel good without actually improving the situation. Removing our doesn’t make us safer. If anything, it makes us less safe. Though it might seem good to take them away because that’s where people congregate, all ResEd has done is pushed people closer together on the couches we have left or, worse, pushed people into smaller rooms. 

Sure, at the tables, we weren’t always exactly six feet apart. Sometimes we’d be five, or four. Still, we were wearing masks and doing our best. Without tables, if people want to play a board game, their best option is to go into someone’s room. A smaller, less-ventilated room. But that’s really what it’s about, isn’t it? The College doesn’t really know when people are in rooms, not wearing masks, not distancing. It’s a way for ResEd and the College to wash their hands of the issue, to look good on the outside without making substantive changes. 

Security theater seems to be the theme of this semester. Our tables, that strange line to get into the Rathskeller, and even the green passes. Everyone knows a huge amount of people fake their surveys. Hell, when I go into Azariah’s Café, there’s always a few people filling out the surveys right before they check for the pass. It’s like our tables. It’s something good to put in an ObieSafe email, but it doesn’t keep us safe. It’s not addressing the real issues: the lack of places to eat, the abysmal way the College is handling study spaces. It’s a band-aid. COVID’s taken so much away from all of us — the college life we were hoping for, our first-year experience, our sense of normalcy — but now they took away our tables? Removing basic furniture doesn’t keep us safe. It just makes the administration feel better.