Saturday, February 26, 2011

Date Tables

The one thing I most wanted to change about Centre College in my first two decades here was the seating arrangement in the dining hall. It was a big round room, full of big round tables. The fraternity men sat together in the tables around edges of the room, looking at the sorority women at the tables on the inside of the room. Independents, and the handful of couples brave enough to eat together, sat in the wings - literally marginalized.

A few years ago we tore down that building. Our new student center was designed, in part, to break up that somewhat toxic seating arrangement. And it worked. The tables are smaller, and the seating patterns are more diverse and less static.

In a journal for my "Family Life" class a student noted that now there are three kinds of seating in the dining hall:
  • Round tables - where groups discuss whatever;
  • High toppers - taller tables, well suited for people watching; and
  • Date tables - where couples eat together, publicly proclaiming their relationship
Date tables, and the public display of relationship that they entail, have their detractors. I think, though, that they represent a large step forward from the previous culture that tended to limit much of the sober cross-sex conversation to the classroom.


Anonymous said...

I think, also, that to limit the small tables to cross-sex conversations that declare relationships is reductive. I find that smaller tables are more often for small-group discussions, whether that be between men, women, or men and women. Typically these folks are just friends, debriefing life, reconnecting weekly in a space that allows for two people - just two people - to connect. Not all that goes on in Cowan is for the purpose of mate-selection.

Brendan said...

All that goes on in Cowan is for the purpose of mate-selection.

I haven't been back inside since the remodel, though. As somebody who sat in the wings before even realizing what the structure was, I never found it as irritating as many of my classmates did. But why wouldn't you want to sit near the windows?

Kerri said...

Us marginalized, non-Greek, mix-sexed folk were known as "wing-nuts." =)