BY CHLOE JENSEN ’20
When the dining expansion was first announced, many students were worried about how community members with sensory processing disorders would find places to sit, eat and cope. Thankfully, the College administration announced that there would be a tranquility room — a room without blaring music, students screaming about their hook-ups and the sound of dining workers yelling over the crashing plates and silverware. A room where students could dine in peace. Although the Tranquility Room in SuperBlanch is quiet, it does not functionally serve its place as a designated peaceful environment.
Every time I walk into the Tranquility Room, I see over a dozen students huddled over their textbooks, laptops and assignments, vigorously highlighting their readings or writing notes, taking up several seats with their study materials and overall, creating a stressful energy throughout the room. I cannot help but think, “This is just a second reading room where you can eat omelettes.”
Many of the students who need to eat in the Tranquility Room do so to relieve stress. As someone with sensory overload, I need a quiet space to decompress when I am stressed out. The last thing I need is to sit in a room full of anxious energy. While the room may be quiet, the high-pressure environment isn’t helpful or productive for my anxiety. Students with sensory overload and other neurodivergencies do not benefit from another reading room.
At prestigious institutions like Mount Holyoke, where stress levels tend to be high and stress culture tends to be prominent, neurodivergent students tend to already feel more pressure than their neurotypical peers. Although just as capable of success, constant discussion of grades, work and academic performance makes us more vulnerable to self-doubt and anxiety. This begs the question: is the Tranquility Room really tranquil, or just noiseless?
Just because a space is quiet does not make it an appropriate space to study. There are dozens of other study spots in SuperBlanch that are great during non-rush hours; not to mention that Mount Holyoke has not just one, but two beautiful, functional libraries meant exactly for studious endeavors.
I’m not saying that we should ban laptops and textbooks in the SuperBlanch Tranquility Room — I am merely saying that students should consider why a space is quiet, and how studying in that room can contribute to its overall atmosphere. If someone needs to relax without over-stimulation, consider how a room full of frantically studying students will make them feel. If we want neurodivergent students to truly feel relaxed, the campus could benefit on a conversation on the definition of tranquility and what we define as a tranquil space.