In defense of Grad Center


“These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, really though/ There are no hedge-rows, just look”

 “Where are you living this year?”

“I’m in Grad Center.”

“That sucks.”

That was a conversation I had within seconds of meeting another Brown student over Thanksgiving break, who happens to be a friend of my cousin. It was not an unusual interaction in the slightest. The Graduate Center is not held in high esteem by the student population at large, and I admit that I take the occasional potshot at it. But today is going to be different – today, I shall avoid the quick and easy defamation of this cinder block citadel and explain why Grad Center is actually a nice place to live. This is my second year living in this dorm thanks to the potent combination of my apathy towards the housing lottery and my bizarre and fragmented sleep schedule. Am I exposing the truth, or is this a textbook case of Stockholm Syndrome? I leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide.

Grad Center Bar

The GCB is great, no question about it. But how often do we consider what the first two letters of that acronym stand for? Without Grad Center, there can be no GCB. Think about that the next time you want to talk trash, you ungrateful wretches.

The Bear’s Lair

No, don’t stop reading. The Bear’s Lair is terrible, and utterly inferior to Nelson Center in terms of equipment and space. However, it fills a particular workout niche that Nelson leaves woefully unaddressed: night workouts. The Bear’s Lair is listed on the Brown recreation website as closing at midnight. This is pure fiction. The Bear’s Lair is always open, which is a dream if you, like me, procrastinate your workouts so much that you end up starting at 3a.m. I’d go so far as to say that the middle of the night is the only good time to workout in Grad Center’s own carpeted gym (Who made that decision?). You won’t have to wait for a treadmill, or for some guy to get his millionth set of curls done with the 25’s. If you feel intensely awkward when working out, or have an intense fear of gym rats, get to the Bear’s Lair at the witching hour. If you live in Grad Center, you barely have to go outside, which is ideal in colder months.

Quick access to Josiah’s

Jo’s is a good choice for dinner food, but it is unquestionably the best choice for late night, sobriety-free chow. Andrews has more variety overall, but by the time 1a.m. rolls around, all they serve is pizza whose crust has no structural integrity. Is that really going to sate your booze-fueled hunger? Of course not. You need to get to Jo’s for something with more protein, e.g. a Spicy With. The fries are low on protein, but will provide that boost of energy you need to go home and pass out within 20 minutes of eating them. Get yourself a room in Grad Center, and Jo’s is just a stone’s throw away whenever you’re feeling peckish.

It’s easy to get a single

I’ve missed the housing lottery two years running (even the online one), and yet I’ve still managed to get my own room. If you want to live alone, and don’t mind sharing a bathroom with some strangers, Grad Center is ideal for you. Technically, you are living in a suite with the aforementioned strangers, but the only common area is a narrow hallway from which you access your room. You can become best friends with them, or you can not bother to learn their names – it’s entirely up to you. The walls may be a bit thin, and the rooms are on the small side, but they’re more than large enough for one person. Regrettably, there is no air conditioning in the buildings, but this is only relevant for a few weeks of the year. Grad Center beckons the student who had a shitty time with their first roommate.

Minimalist aesthetic

If you were feeling uncharitable, you might describe Grad Center as “an eyesore.” Indeed, it is concrete and brick Bastille, hardly inspiring to behold. However, I find that there is a certain charm in the dingy stairwells and blunt geometry of the building. Grad center doesn’t attempt to be a beautiful place, and although it is outdone in cubic motifs by the CIT, its sharp edges and earthy colors have grown on me. The four towers, though they are isolated and have no elevators (good luck moving in), converge onto a patio of sorts in the center building that is ideal for reading or smoking on warmer nights. Unlike those of Hogwarts, the towers have no special names, colors, or histories, and are identified only by a letter. Grad Center is all about brute functionality. I respect that, even if it seems grim at first glance.

Grad Center catches a lot of flak, and I concede that a fair bit of it is deserved. This does not mean, though, that living here consigns you to misery. It can be a nice place where drunk people don’t steal your food from the community fridge and the heat is always on in the winter (sometimes to excess, but you can just crack a window in that case). If you want your peace and quiet, and you rather enjoy a no-frills living experience, forget about 257 Thayer and give Grad Center a shot. It has lights, running water, walls, and a roof, and those have been enough for me.

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