Saying goodbye to McCollum Hall
This ode to McCollum Hall, written by KU student and former McCollum resident Chloe Voth, was originally published on The Odyssey and is reprinted here with permission. The residence hall will be demolished at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, November 25. Watch a livestream of the implosion, along with additional coverage, at www.kualumni.org/mccollum.
The campus skyline in Lawrence is about to change. The largest residence hall at the University of Kansas is going to be torn down. And while most students will be delighted to see the mold-infested dorm go, there are some of us who might shed a tear or two—specifically, the many lucky ones, including me, who were the last year of McCollum survivors!
I remember move-in day and being disgusted by the idea of sharing a bathroom with 30 other girls, trying to decide where I would put all my clothes with such little closet space and always having that slight fear that I would forget my key and get locked out on a regular basis. That first night on the small twin bed I contemplated my decision of staying in the dorm. There was no way I could survive this for another nine months when one night was already rough enough!
However, the next week that followed was a little less awful. Although I was disappointed that none of the boys on our floor were very attractive and annoyed that our dorm was the furthest from campus (so walking to class meant you had to make it an extra 20 yards without dying of heatstroke). But I decided to make the best of it by decorating and turning those cinder block walls into a room that felt like home as much as possible.
A ton changed in the next few weeks of freshman year. I finally got used to the weak water pressure of the showers and having to drag my dirty clothes through the lobby, into the elevator, all the way to the basement just to do laundry. But the best thing was that I finally talked to some of those weird boys in the other wing … and the dorm didn’t feel so awful after that. It became the location to many of the memories made:
- Like having to wake up at 5 a.m. to go camp in line for the basketball games. I got to spend a half-hour banging on everyone’s door trying to get them up in time before having to walk down to the Fieldhouse (which always felt like miles away when it was still dark and freezing out). It took continuous knocking, but everyone eventually strolled into the lobby sporting their best hobo outfit and “I haven’t had coffee yet, so don’t talk to me” facial expression.
- Or when we realized each room was a three digit number and we lived on the sixth floor, so naturally we wanted to find the room numbered 666. So we walked through each wing until we found that they did indeed skip over that satanic number.
- By far the most unusual thing to happen was when I got up on a Sunday morning after a late Saturday night and heard that a certain sink in a certain boys’ wing was no longer working … probably because it was no longer attached to the wall. It was the conversation for the next few days and still remains as one of the legendary weekends of freshman year.
- And let’s not forget that one fateful night, when we were up past the RA’s personal bedtime (9 p.m. on a Saturday night), and we all got written up … every single one of us.
I know that next year we will mistakenly find ourselves
stumbling walking back to the end of Daisy Hill after a Friday night at the Hawk, only to be confused as to why our entire dorm building is missing.
At the start of the year I tried to cover up every inch of the white washed walls that surrounded me because I did not think this place could ever feel like home. And now that our first year at college has come to a close, I’m struggling to find the heart to tear everything down. Watching everyone else take their flags, pictures and posters off the walls, it’s beginning to hit me that this is all too real. We are no longer freshman. And this will no longer be my room where I swap crazy weekend stories with my roommate, spend five seconds trying to pick out a dress before hopping on safe bus or cry over my essay that just won’t write itself. I am slowly watching McCollum look exactly as it did that first day I walked in: empty. Only this time is different. I’m not stressing about finding the right lecture hall in the maze of a building, I’m not trying to figure out the best time to go eat a meal or worrying about which sorority to join and who I’ll make friends with. I’m stressing about finals and grades, I’m dying of hunger because cafeteria food is gross, and worst of all, I’m crying because for the next few months I have to leave all of my favorite people that I’ve met over the course of the year.
Growing up in northeast Kansas, KU is a popular choice for college partially because it is so close to home. That meant weekend trips to see my puppies, do free laundry and have delicious home-cooked meals were a monthly thing. Although I found myself telling my family how I needed to head back “home” on Sunday evenings. Lawrence slowly morphed into the place where I felt most at home. It is where I spent endless hours simply hanging out with the collective group of people that make up my college family. 1800 Engel Road.
I just wanted to say one last goodbye to McCollum Hall. Thank you for being my first home away from home. But now I realize how much easier it is to say goodbye to the building than it is the people in it, because they are the ones that really made this crazy dorm feel like home after all.