Graduates and graffiti: A look at the Philosopher's Garden

By Anna Waugh

Some call it the Reading Circle. Others call it the Library Plaza. There have also been unconfirmed rumors that it is named the Philosopher’s Garden.It is the place where professors vainly try to conduct classes on the first day of spring while their students are busy watching squirrels eat rolls stolen from Caf Mac.

Every day, it is the place where students smoke, tie their shoes, or just read and relax before class.

Last semester, the almost 24-hour (no one showed up to cover the 4 a.m. shift) music festival was held in the garden.

Although many of us pass this space every day on the way to Olin-Rice, few of us stop to appreciate this little haven in the middle of our campus.

Even fewer stop to thank Sandy Street from Facilities Management, the woman responsible for maintaining this space.

There are four main people in the Grounds department who maintain Macalester’s campus. Street’s section extends from Kirk and the Campus Center down to St. Clair Avenue and the stadium. She is also responsible for the entire library area, including the plaza.

The Philosopher’s Garden was built as part of the construction of the Dewitt-Wallace Library in 1988. Since then, its structures have remained the same, but the garden has flourished.

Street is given free reign to decide what to do with her section of campus.

“It’s pretty much the way I want it now, but it has changed a lot,” Street said.

The trees were there when she started at Macalester ten years ago, but grass that was difficult to mow was removed. In its place, she created a garden filled with daylilies and various annuals intended to give campus more color.

“Every year you make improvements,” Street said.

Unfortunately, Grounds workers aren’t alone in adding color to campus.

One thing that Grounds deals with in the garden-and all over campus-is graffiti.

Graffiti and chalking around campus are interesting problems for Grounds.

Sometimes student orgs chalk in areas they aren’t supposed to, and that must be removed. Additionally, someone has been writing the initials SYL in marker on the benches.

“It can be frustrating,” Grounds Manager Jerry Nelson said of repeatedly removing graffiti.

Another problem in the plaza is that, since almost twenty years have passed since its construction, the bricks are falling, Nelson said.

The garden is a quiet tribute to the people and classes that have come before us.

Every year during the week of graduation, the Trades Department, which manages projects such as carpentry, adds a plaque to the center of the circle to commemorate the graduating class.

“You [pass] it every day, you just don’t think about it,” Street said.