Imagining a more inclusive Viking Room

By Jess Morgan

Lawrence’s Viking Room (VR) is a great way for upperclassmen to socialize on campus. After spending about two and a half years on campus, the mysterious room in Memorial Hall’s basement is finally revealed to students once they turn 21.

While the VR is a great asset on campus, not everyone will be able to enjoy the privilege of visiting. We might want to re-think its setup to make it available to all members of the Lawrence community.

“The VR is a rite of passage of sorts, a tribute to our two and a half years of hard work, and a privilege that underclassmen haven’t earned quite yet,” Ormsby Hall HRLA Ashley Coenen said. After sticking through two years of intense classes and hard work, the VR is almost a reward to the upperclassmen at our university.

However, there are some students at Lawrence who may never get to enjoy the VR before they graduate. Junior Jacy Martin entered Lawrence at the age of 16 and will be 20 when she graduates from Lawrence. When asked if she would have liked to take part in any activities in the VR, she replied that “there haven’t been any so far that I have really strongly wanted to attend.”

However, there are some events that will come up over the next year that Martin and other students in her position will miss out on.

“I do feel like there will be situations in the future hosted in the VR, such as senior events like the ‘100 days party,’ ‘Senior Night’and friends’ birthdays, where I will want to participate, but cannot,” Martin says.

Not only are there senior traditions held in the VR, but musical performances, weekly trivia and occasional nights when faculty and staff visit as guest bartenders. Those aging later than their peers or underclassmen may feel slighted due to their inability to participate on these occasions.

As a freshman, I was really excited to discover that Lawrence’s Wind Ensemble and Orchestra director Andrew Mast occasionally plays in a cover band, but disappointed when I learned I could not attend their performance in the VR.

“I think we’ve played three times, each time on the last Friday of term three classes, but not last spring,” Mast says about his band, “Infectious Pathogens.” “We are kind of in existence to play the final Senior Night of the year.”

Being unable to attend events such as Friday night live music can be frustrating to a young adult that is already restricted from nearby locations on College Ave. After getting sick of Topper sticks and sub sandwiches from Erberts and Gerberts, food options are readily available for those craving a good burger within the bars doubling as restaurants on College Avenue, but only for 21-year-olds.

For upperclassmen wanting to get away from their younger classmates, they have the option of taking refuge at a local bar among their legal drinking age peers, but underclassmen are unable to enter this type of social setting at all.

Making the VR available to underclassmen could open up the possibilities for the function of our on-campus bar. While obtaining the right type of setup and licensing to make it possible for those under the legal drinking age to enter may be tricky, it is certainly not impossible.

At Beloit College, the inclusion of food makes it possible for underclassmen to enter their on-campus bar, the Coughy Haus, since it functions as a restaurant as well as a bar.

“When the drinking age changed to 21 in Wisconsin, the Coughy Haus could no longer allow students under 21 to enter where alcohol was sold downstairs. We now have a restaurant license and a beer-only license. Because it is a ‘restaurant’ which also is licensed to sell beer, students are able to enter but must be carded at the time of sale of alcohol,” states Beloit’s “Student Regulations and College Policies 2014–15.”

Beloit’s Coughy Haus also serves as a venue for other events. “This weekend, Amnesty International is hosting a benefit concert featuring campus bands in tandem with a bake sale and the Write 4 Rights campaign,” says Nicholas Fillbach, a student and Amnesty Financial Officer at Beloit College. “Prohibiting students under the age of 21 would not only exclude them from a safe and entertaining experience, but limit the reach of our campaign.”

“If you asked upperclassmen what they thought about opening the VR to underage students, I bet plenty would say it’s a silly idea,” says Coenen. “But I’m sure that you’ll also find lots of upperclassmen who think it’d be cool to be able to hang out with their underage friends in the VR, especially with those who won’t be of age until after our graduation.”

It is unclear what would result if the VR opened up to all students on campus. However, it is a possibility that should be explored due to its potential benefits to every member on campus regardless of age. Currently, underclassmen view the stage lights shining down the hill outside the VR and hear its music from afar. What harm is there for them to satisfy their curiosity, venture to Memorial’s basement and step foot through the door?