Notes from the Underground: Dennett basement

Frosh Quad and Mission Park are undoubtedly the havens for first years – a place where they are free from the scorn and scrutiny of disparaging upperclassmen. These two freshman residences are extremely close-knit, and serve an integral role in bringing together incoming freshman and helping them adapt to college life. As a current freshman who lives in Frosh Quad and frequently eats at Mission, I believe strongly in the sanctity and purity of this experience – this right of passage. Therefore, it should not be surprising that when I first found that there was a group of upperclassmen living in the Dennett basement, I had a strange sense that a bubble I was growing within had been punctured. With the fate of the freshman experience resting on the line, I determined that further investigation was necessary.

“My motto is: D-Base is the place. Instead of getting debased, get D-Based,” Jim Dunshee ’09, a resident of Dennett basement, said. Dennett basement (otherwise known as D-Base) is a small haven of maturity and experience in the depths of Mission Park. Currently, there are roughly half a dozen upperclassmen living there, all of whom, for a variety of reasons, were denied other, perhaps preferred lodgings. Some may have taken time off from school, while others may simply have been sick during the selection process and been assigned roommates with whom they clashed. Whatever the case, there is no question that a certain amount of stigma surrounds these big fish swimming amongst minnows. But the more I talked with the inhabitants, the more I was convinced that their little hidden nook had a certain allure.

The long Dennett basement hallway is divided in the middle by a common room and a kitchen. Unlike perhaps every other hallway in the residence, the D-Base hallway is conspicuously quiet and clean: there is no trash littered on the ground, no speakers blaring music and no students running about. There are a total of 12 rooms in the basement, although only six are occupied and the common room has a large, almost panoramic view of the parking lot and the nearby tennis courts. In this new environment, I felt at ease, relaxed, like I had stepped into a new dimension within the larger galaxy of Mission.

And yet, I could not help but feel the glaring lack of my fellow classmates, my people. “We kind of have this reputation of being an outsider cave of upperclassmen,” Dunshee said. “I definitely appreciate the quietness, and having some space between myself and other students.” Dunshee also did not hesitate to point out the other apparent advantages of living in D-Base. “With the dining hall here, and with me having classes only three days a week, I can really just chill here and not bother going out at all,” he said. “Also, how many seniors can say that they sleep under dozens of freshmen every night?” he added with a devious smile.

Samantha Segan ’10, another inhabitant of Dennett basement, was sick last year when housing selection season came around. “When I went and talked to them right afterwards, they put me in a double,” she said. “I didn’t really get along with my roommate, but I realized that it was my fault, so I moved out. Unfortunately, there was no drama.”

Along with her new drama-free abode, Segan also benefits from her close proximity to many of her friends who are currently Junior Advisors in Mission. But for Segan, being near to her friends is only a minor perk. “The greatest thing about living here is that I can vacuum at 2 a.m. because everyone is awake. I mean, I don’t usually vacuum at 2 a.m., but – well – No! I don’t have OCD!”

When it comes to interaction with her peers, though, Segan admitted that it was a somewhat strange dynamic. “My friends don’t visit me too often down here. But when they do come, we get to commandeer the common room – do whatever we want.” She said, “I like that it’s suggestive. It’s like, movies anyone? Pinochle? Orgies? It is quiet though. There are only three of us living here, well – maybe six. And a dog.”

As for intermingling with the freshmen, Segan also has positive reactions. “There are a lot of freshmen around, which works out great if you’re the type of person I am – Usually I just say hi, or that they’ll figure out how to use the frozen yogurt machine eventually. That it comes with time,” Segan said lightheartedly.

When asked if she had ever had any strange experiences with freshmen, Sarah Goldberg ’11 replied that people typically assume that she is a freshman as well. First-years often come up to Goldberg asking what entry she’s in, prompting her to explain that she’s in fact not part of the exclusive bond uniting all first-years.

“Honestly, it’s a really cool place to live,” Dunshee said. “I look forward to the day when I no longer have to bow my head in shame when I tell people that I live here.”

Segan agreed. “Apart from the social stigma, I really feel like it’s pretty nice to live here,” she said. “Hopefully this article will help combat the social stigma. Hopefully people will see how witty and totally awesome we are.”

Although D-Base remains an anomaly in the freshmen housing experience, I now feel much more able to understand the mysterious inhabitants of Mission basement. They may not fit perfectly into the general freshmen experience, but they’re a cool bunch. If you find yourself in Dennett basement, knock on some doors. Take in the surroundings. Give it two or three years. I’m convinced it’ll be the new place to live on campus.