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  • Leslie De La Rosa

Co-op paintings covered, Eells racist wallpaper remains

Entering my sophomore year with soaring expectations, I was convinced it would become the most remarkable one to date. Enrolled in captivating courses, residing with close friends, and having my chosen family just a short stroll away, everything felt like a dream. As a theater major, I eagerly anticipated the incredible productions the department had in store. Yet, life took an unexpected turn. After weeks of pleading with Tanith from Res Life for assistance to be moved out of my current room, a nearby opportunity finally emerged. It was the chance to join Woollcott House, fondly known as COOP.

Woollcott House, where COOP was located, still bears its title. It may return in future years with enough student interest. | Gabriel Bit-Babik '25 for Monitor

Although I can go on for pages defining what COOP meant to many, I’m focusing on the unfortunate end of a community that was promised to be preserved. This article also emphasizes the need to have Hamilton College learn what it means to foster a community and be a part of something true and real that’s not only for social media or a profit. Join me as I explain the importance of what the COOP community meant to us and how disheartening it is to be at an institution that does not understand what it means to build your own family.

COOP was an exceptional interest-based housing arrangement at Woollcott House. We ran it like a tightly-knit family restaurant. Every Sunday, we'd gather to discuss plans and tidy up the kitchen together, nurturing a familial atmosphere. Some questioned why we, as students, took on cooking and cleaning responsibilities. I'd explain that it was more manageable than it seemed – akin to growing up and becoming self-sufficient. COOP not only offered a chance to find a family within Hamilton but also allowed us to develop practical skills in cooking and cleaning that were rare on campus.

COOP was a privilege that united us as a family and fostered a sense of community, embodying Hamilton's "Hamily" vision, even within our modest group of 20. COOP dinners extended a warm welcome to outsiders, inviting them to partake in communal dining, engaging discussions, and meaningful connections. Joining COOP later on, I carried concerns about fitting in, but everyone residing there made it feel like home. COOP held immense significance for me and others, for both current and future students.

The living room walls of COOP served as a canvas for student art, providing a haven for self-expression. Conversations with a representative of Residential Life and our former resident treasurer, Diego E. Inzunza, assured us of the preservation of these artistic contributions. One summer night in July, as the warm breeze enveloped us, I stood on the COOP porch with two friends, one of whom was Diego. She gazed inside and shared that most of the walls had been painted over. It was a moment of immediate confusion and disbelief. As I peered through the doors, the truth was undeniable – our creations were gone.

Hamilton's apparent disregard for our concerns left us disillusioned. The heart of COOP felt discarded, a jarring realization. Despite the numerous discussions about the value of the artwork, it had been painted over. This leaves me pondering two critical questions: Who made this decision? And why wasn't the student body informed? During my spring semester, I gave a tour to two future Woollcott House residents, who will now be part of the special interest community called the Mosaic. I stressed the importance of preserving the walls, aiming for them to contribute to COOP's legacy rather than starting anew.

Hamilton's actions, undertaken without student notification, shook my faith. I now reside in Eells House, where a racist, historically inaccurate wallpaper still hangs untouched. LES VUES D'AMÉRIQUE DU NORD designed in the early 19th century by French painter Jean-Julien Deltil remains, depicting harmonious interactions between White and Black people at a time when slavery was commonplace in the US. Indigenous people are depicted in a way that implies they are there for the entertainment of an audience.

In truth, this was far from reality – Black individuals remained enslaved, while Indigenous communities suffered from colonization and loss of land. The beneficiaries? Primarily White individuals. This painting reeks of racism, perpetuating incorrect depictions and historical inaccuracies.

The wallpaper is located in the dining room of Eells House, a building once owned by Alpha Delta Phi fraternity who installed the original wallpaper. Though the College has not removed the wallpaper, it has locked away the room it is in, seemingly aware it does not leave a positive impression upon most modern viewers. | Gabriel Bit-Babik '25 for Monitor

This prompts me to question: If COOP's community art can be obliterated, then why not address the racist mural that negatively impacts students of color?

Recent events have cast shadows over Hamilton's new administration and its envisioned future. The yet-explained termination of College Chaplain Jeff McArn this past June is but one example where it appears the concerns and needs of students are not prioritized. The impact on students has been profound, and efforts to garner a truthful statement from the administration continue. Even now, students are tirelessly organizing to bring attention to this issue and show the student body that in the absence of a supportive administration, we will come together to support our community. The decision-making process seems devoid of consideration for the student body, and this lack of understanding is disheartening.

While Hamilton has offered valuable opportunities, it has also taught me the importance of standing up for one's beliefs. Advocating for my principles and asserting myself is crucial. I am determined not to let my contributions be dismantled. I can't help but wonder: Would the walls have been covered if COOP generated revenue? We refuse to stay silent in the face of these injustices; we demand change.

Our call for action echoes loudly.

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