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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: The quad tent — not gone, but soon to be forgotten

The large tent in the quad collapsed due to the weight of the snow that fell Sunday morning, Jan. 16, 2022.

You pass it every day. It’s bold, big — its white exterior screams for attention. It’s protective, nurturing, but ultimately unnecessary. 

And no, it’s not Rameses desperately trying to raise spirits at the Duke-UNC game last Saturday.

The big tent on the quad has long been considered one of the more irrelevant fixtures on campus — but it wasn’t always that way. The tent came at a time when COVID-19 was peaking, with few indoor study options during a period of primarily remote classes. There have been days where I've spent hours in it, studying or catching up with friends under its roof. The tent was a place I called home.

Then, one day in mid-January, it died. 

It happened tragically — slowly, and then all at once. The winter snow caused the roof to cave, leaving a dismembered graveyard of abandoned chairs and tables underneath its suffocating canopy. The roof was removed, but the furniture remained – a harsh reminder of what used to be.

It was hard to watch that majestic structure meet such a painful end, but I've made peace with its cruel fate. All good things must come to an end, and it was the tent’s time to part ways with our beautiful campus.

But then, they started rebuilding it.

I remember the shock, confusion and anger I felt when I passed the construction crew setting up in the quad on the way to my morning class. What could they possibly be fixing? I had paid my respects to the tent, and I think I speak for most students when I say that I was ready to see it go.

But there they were, putting it back together with the pieces of a puzzle that we had happily cast aside.

Earlier, when I described the beauty and wonder of the tent, I was speaking in memoriam. For all I knew, the tent was gone, so why not say a few kind words in its passing? But now that it's coming back in some half-baked zombie form, I can speak freely: That tent is my greatest enemy.

Not only does the tent take up a massive part of the quad that would otherwise be devoted to lounging and picnicking, it kills everything around it: namely, the grass underneath it. Is this why they can’t bear to remove it? Because of the dead, brown grass that is bound to lie beneath — a stain on our manicured green quad?

Don’t even get me started on the mosquitos that hang around the tent in the evening. They buzz inconspicuously around the chairs and tables, looking for the next victim who foolishly thought the tent would be a good place to study following their 4:45 p.m. class.

But I think the most far-reaching reason is the least far-reaching one: Eduroam. The tent is placed in such a location that it rarely even gets two bars of Wifi, leaving students desperately stealing Hot Spots or joining Zoom calls on their phones. 

Also, it’s ugly.

The mystery of the tent's second coming leaves us with some questions. 

Is this some desperate story of death and rebirth? Has Kevin G. been living out of the tent this entire time because it makes him feel more connected to campus? Do Duke students sleep there at night to eavesdrop on UNC secrets and pollute our YikYak?

No matter what the true reason is, I think I speak for many when I say that the tent is one of the biggest systematic problems UNC faces right now. I’m not sure who I’m voting for to be student body president, but it better be someone with ambitious plans to solve this issue. 

As long as the tent stands, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep … and I certainly can’t connect to Eduroam. In protest, I will officially be boycotting this structure until the end of time. This is a matter of morality, sustainability and devotion to a cause that is bigger than all of us — about 16-by-36-feet, to be exact.

(I don’t mind the side tents too much though, anyone want to meet there to study later today?)


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