LETTER | Save the Grad House: collegial, convivial, and crucial

Letters Opinions

I write to you concerning the potential closure of the Grad House restaurant, for which there is an upcoming Graduate Representative Council (GRC) meeting on August 13. 

I understand that the question of closure is the result of financial strain. I am not in a position to know the ins and outs of the budget and I respect the challenges there. However, as a former graduate student and continuing member of the UVic community, I am in a position to express what this friendly place means to me, and I believe there are many ways in which the Grad House plays an important role for this community. 

When I was a grad student in Environmental Studies at UVic, I remember being delighted when I first discovered the Grad House. The ambience is pleasant and homey, the draught beers are well-chosen, and the food is excellent. Being steps from the SUB and the bus loop, it feels easy and welcoming to break up a day with lunch at the Grad House or end a day with dinner and a pint. 

The Grad House is also a place for ceremony. Every time someone in my old department defends their thesis, it’s our default to wander over for beers and maybe meals, depending on time of day. Having such a nice go-to place for celebrations contributes to a feeling of being at home on campus. And with the wall of polaroids and the special Defender stein, I imagine being the defender of the day feels like joining a happy community tradition that connects all of the graduate programs at UVic. 

Nowadays, I’m more of a mechanic than an inventor (data analysis versus full-on research thesising), but I still value the kinds of research-oriented conversations that can happen in a space like the Grad House. Some of the most interesting thoughts I came across in my time at UVic have been discussed around Grad House tables and counters — especially in those times right after someone’s defense. After the formalities are over, the beer flows and so do the lateral connections and playful insights. These kinds of connections and insights are at the heart of academic work. 

Finally, both anecdotal and peer-reviewed evidence suggests that grad school across disciplines can take a toll on mental health (for a summary see this year’s January 31 article in the Scientific American). I know first hand — last year I left my PhD for mental health reasons. But because of the community I found in my time at UVic, I still work on campus, and I still go to the Grad House. I would argue that one of the best salves for the challenges we face as grad students is a strong and healthy community. Homey places with good food and friendly people foster community, and the Grad House is exactly that sort of place. 

Sincerely,

Julia A. Maddison

Former School of Environmental Studies Graduate Student