Global Grounds builds alternative social space

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Photo by Cristiana Manole.

Hands gripping game pieces and Cheez-Its, students gather around two rows of tables in the Dwight Hall common room. Their soft conversation fills the space as Yalies walk in and out, some lingering to watch a game of Apples to Apples. At the far end of the room, others select from a spread of snack foods with everything from pretzel sticks to rugelach, as well as coffee and tea.

Such is a typical Saturday night at Global Grounds, a weekend hangout launched in March 2010 by the Yale College Dean’s Office and Yale Chaplain’s office in an effort to diversify Yalies’ late night options.

A space where any and all students are encouraged to spend their Friday or Saturday nights, Global Grounds has offered students a calm, alcohol-free social venue for the past year and a half. According to Timothy Sommer DIV ’13, a Global Grounds manager, around 100 people across all classes of Yale College take advantage of the opportunity, playing board games, chatting or grabbing a snack in the room.

Although originally named for the assortment of foods, Global Grounds now lives up to its name in a new way — with its diverse crowd of regular visitors.

‘RADICAL HOSPITALITY’

Although Chaplain’s Office Program Coordinator Nat DeLuca GRD ’06 said that Global Grounds aims to provide an alternative late-night option to what he sees as the prevailing party culture at Yale, he refuted the “founding myth” that it was part of administrators’ effort to target on campus drinking.

“It’s not an anti-anything space,” DeLuca said. “People can go before, after or during a party. We don’t have bouncers at the door with breathalyzers.”

According to DeLuca, the philosophy behind Global Grounds is “radical hospitality,” which means that Global Grounds seeks to be a neutral and rejuvenating environment for everyone; there is no preconceived notion of what students need, he said.

One manager and two student workers staff the space each night.

Ayesha Muhammad ’14, who has regularly attended Global Grounds since freshman year, said that the common attitude fostered by the casual ambiance defines Global Grounds.

“You can relate to the people who are sitting across from you because they don’t want to party or they just want to chill for an evening,” Muhammad said. “For that night at least, they want the exact thing you want.”

According to Husna Bayram ’13, one of the two student workers on duty last Saturday night, student workers will always notice when inebriated students enter but she does not think the intoxicated students disrupt the atmosphere.

Muhammad said that people visiting Global Grounds after a night of partying does not bother her.

“I’m still having fun with my friends if they come in or they don’t come in,” she said.

After a year and a half of operation, the program has not run into any problems, DeLuca said. In fact, he added, various student organizations reach out to him each week seeking to host a night of Global Grounds. He said he denies these requests in order to maintain the open atmosphere.

A GLOBAL COMMUNITY

University Chaplain Sharon Kugler told the News when the program launched that she hoped Global Grounds would feature food from different areas of the world each week. While the weekly $250 worth of food offered for free to students now is spent on supermarket snacks, the communal space of Global Grounds has fostered relationships among people from many walks of Yale.

International students were in the minority this Saturday night, but Sommer said he was pleased by the overall diversity among the people who visit Global Grounds every week.

“If I wanted to get in touch with the WASP community of Yale, this isn’t the place I would check,” Sommer said.

In addition to its ethnic diversity, the program draws students from various corners of the University. For example, both Global Grounds managers are students at the Yale Divinity School.

According to Bayram, working with the managers from the Divinity School has allowed her to get to know a part of the Yale community with which she otherwise would have had little contact.

“It’s fun to see how little they know about undergrad life, and they’re really interesting to interact with,” Bayram said.

Jingnan Peng ’15, who hails from Beijing, said he has frequented Global Grounds since the second week of school specifically to talk with one of the managers.

“We talk and to some extent inspire each other” Peng said. “I learn about what’s on his mind and his website. I’ve also met some interesting people here.”

Of the 27 students at Global Grounds around 11 p.m. Saturday night, each class was represented, but only three were freshmen and 12 were juniors.

Bayram said that she believes Global Grounds’ location on Old Campus attracts freshmen who later return as sophomores because it has become their regular hangout spot.

“There are faces you see every weekend,” Bayram said.

Global Grounds is open from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night.

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