Louis Hannegan, Managing Editor
When I visited the University of Dallas as a prospective student in the spring of 2008, I remember being struck by the liveliness of Haggar foyer. Conversations and banter filled the Rat, Braniff, the Cap Bar patio and the Mall, but Haggar had something special going for it.
When I returned as a freshman in 2009, that something seemed absent. People talked and laughed and bantered just as they had before, but the liveliness was missing. There was no music, no dancing. There were no Mozart sonatas, no pop songs, no jazz or rag, no friendly music competitions; there was no impromptu two-stepping, no spontaneous swing. There was no piano. The “Haggar Piano,” that little upright Kawai, was gone, and so too was all the spontaneous and lively fun that went with it.
It was surprising how much of a difference that music, or its absence, made. Just like music at a party or a soundtrack in a movie, that extra sound really added a lot to that space. It added life and vitality to the concrete shell that is meant to be the heart of campus.
Unfortunately, what made the piano a source of liveliness and fun also made it a distraction for those who worked in the offices in Haggar. Though some may downplay it, the complaint is pretty reasonable: If you have to work somewhere or have a meeting, you’d prefer not to be distracted, even if it’s by nice music.
With these two competing, reasonable interests, a compromise seems the most sensible path. Both students and office workers use Haggar; why not just find a way to satisfy both?
Perhaps one such compromise would be to put a lock on the Haggar piano, once it has been returned to Haggar, of course.
When the workday and meetings are over at 5 p.m., the piano could be unlocked for student use until the next morning when the workday begins again. The Campus Safety officers could keep the key, locking and unlocking the piano at the proper times, much the same way they unlock the sacristy door for those helping out with Eucharistic Adoration or the newsroom door for those newspaper staff members who forget their keys.
The compromise would be a win-win deal. During the workday, the staff could work and hold meetings without the distraction of music; during the off-hours, students could bring back a little cheer and vitality precisely during those hours when Haggar could use some.
The compromise would be easy and inexpensive. Locks cost about $60 and are not difficult to install. In fact, the piano in Upstairs Haggar has one. Moreover, locking and unlocking one twice a day would not be a difficult task. Further, as the piano’s odyssey from Haggar to the old priory to the New Hall suggests, moving the piano back into Haggar from the New Hall would not be too difficult either.
The compromise would end this tension on a high note. Perhaps my biggest disappointment upon returning to campus in 2009 was learning about how the controversy had played out. Between two groups of adults – students and staff – each with reasonable claims, you would expect some sort of compromise to be reached. Very much to their credit, the administration did try such compromises as putting signs on the piano listing quiet hours; to the student population’s blame, those signs were ignored.
But less impressive was the follow-up: The piano was simply removed. Couldn’t we have given other compromises a shot? Both students and administration sincerely believe that you can gather 350 18-year-olds from across the country and give them the education of a freeman, of one who can govern himself and lead others. Surely we could have dealt with a piano – and surely we still can. I think such a mezzo forte compromise is just how we can do so.