The Prison of Paraphernalia: Westlands’ Basement

The original 1916 blueprint of Westlands' Basement. Photo Credit: Andrea Cantor

The original 1916 blueprint of Westlands' Basement. Photo Credit: Andrea Cantor

Westlands, a.k.a the mecca center on Sarah Lawrence’s campus, is a melting pot of classrooms, dorms, administrative departments, and President Karen Lawrence’s office. Students know Westlands, but it’s mainly only those who work for the Office of Admissions, such as myself, who are aware of its basement.

To get there, you’ll descend down a greyish, linoleum stairwell with a brown, chipped-paint railing. In front of the last step is a door, which you need swipe access to enter. At this point, you’re officially in the Westland’s basement. The space has undergone multiple transformations since its construction: coal storage, to classrooms, and then back to regular storage. Afterwards, between 1995-2005, the space was designated for the racial identity group, Common Ground, until the members petitioned for a more welcoming atmosphere.

Yet, you still haven’t reached your destination. To the right is another locked door. This time you need the key that’s attached to a Ms. Green M&M plush doll, which can be found in the Office of Admissions.

After opening the door, take the brick adjacently on the floor and use it as a doorstopper. Flick on the dim lights, and you’ll see what Admissions calls the bins or what students term—the dungeon.

Locked, wired cages—which can be opened with the same M&M key— line both the right and left side of the low ceilinged, narrow room.

Currently, the bins are for selected storage. They’re a treasure trove of t-shirts, totes, pennants, mugs, mason jars, ponchos, pens, and folders, all embellished with the school’s insignia and mascots of black squirrels and Gryphons. Other cages are crowded with mountains of boxes containing informational packets on financial aid, study abroad, student athletics and career services. There’s no guarantee that you’ll find what you need, since the cages are overly cluttered. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack, or in this case, the performing arts packet in the stacks of paraphernalia.

The bins aren’t what you would anticipate when considering that Westlands’ Tudor styled architecture was the inspiration for Charles Xavier’s mansion in X-Men. It’s not somewhere you would voluntarily want to go, but working with Admissions entails having to go there on a regular basis.     

Any worker will give a grunt and a sigh of submission when asked to retrieve something from the bins. 

If you’re anywhere above the height of 5’4”, you’ll need to hunch over as to not hit the ceiling. You may see a roach or some vermin scutter across the dust-covered floor, and you’ll want to bring some water, because the air is oppressively hot.  cause of women’s rights, and reach an international audience with her message. Feminism is one of those causes that should never be too far from the spotlight.

Andrea Cantor '17

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SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.