Tar Heel's Pit, Devil's Den?

in formation

While UNC copes with its fair share of shortcomings, a basketball team coached by Roy Williams and a nauseating school color to name just two, the university down Tobacco Road offers its rare benefits. Or, perhaps, at least one: it’s called “the Pit.”

Rather than a synecdoche for the campus itself, “the Pit” is a sunken courtyard beside the Student Union at UNC, where students frequently host speeches and performances.  It is also where individuals and groups of friends and strangers alike gather to “pit-sit”—a verb for sitting in “the Pit” and taking in one’s surroundings.

One surprisingly approachable Tar Heel, junior Sabah Kadir, described pit-sitting as “a chance to hang out with your friends between classes and enjoy a beautiful day.” A public policy major from Cary, N.C., Kadir is a busy lady who successfully balances school work and a healthy social life. Rain or shine, she trusts “the Pit” as somewhere to find someone she knows, meet her friend’s friends, and recharge when needed.

At Duke, comparable spaces include the Brodhead Center, the Bryan Center Plaza, specific residential quads, Marketplace, and not many more. On the other hand, at Chapel Hill, “the Pit”—as a central campus feature—is a hub for students willing and seeking to relax and hang out. Kadir says, “It’s fun to see the student body in general buzz around you and get in touch with campus culture since so many student organizations perform in the Pit.”

Meanwhile, the Landing, a relatively new performance venue in the Bryan Center, still needs time to gain footing as a recognizable campus hub. The outdoor courtyard accessed through the Landing is also a potential new campus pit-equivalent, with its scenic view, collaborative spaces, comfortable patio furniture, and tropical vibe.

Best of all would be an unapologetic embrace of the Bryan Center Plaza—a space administration has already dubbed “a central gathering place for students.” Importantly, an embedded culture of openness sets “the Pit” apart from our Plaza: “the Pit” is a place where people join to take relaxed mindful breaks from homework, emailing and texting. With said openness presents an opportunity to meet new people and put names to recognizable faces.  

One step in the right direction is increased traffic from House Council and student group programming and open-invitation meetings on the Plaza. Another step, or rather call to action for you, reader, is to spend free time—as scarce as it may be—on the Plaza and strike up conversation with the person on the table beside yours. As beautiful as every corner of our gothic wonderland may be, the beauty of a sea of inter-mingling first-years and seniors offers a sight yet to be fully unearthed at Duke.

In the weeks to come, students will begin to investigate, explore, and claim study spots throughout campus. We will compare the noise volume in our common rooms to that on the first-floor of Perkins, and perhaps venture to the Wellness Center for its highly-praised study booths.

Critically, we must offer as much diligence and conscientiousness as we do to our choice of study spot, as we do to our spots for socializing. On a campus where far too early-determined affiliations do not define social networks, reliable venues for meeting new people and hanging out are intentionally so, highly-visible, and all-inclusive. 

If UNC can do it, we can do it better. Here’s to a Bryan Center Plaza that makes a pity of the Tar Heel pit.

Sabriyya Pate is a Trinity junior. Her column, "in formation" runs on alternate Mondays.  

Sabriyya Pate

Sabriyya Pate is a Trinity junior. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.


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