Quest students held a day-long demonstration on Monday, November 14th to protest the removal of the Music Bay over the summer. The event began with an impromptu open mic and drum circle in the Atrium that drew a raucous crowd of around 60 students, as well as a few staff members.
The demonstration came about after the Music Bay was replaced with Quest Kids, a daycare center for the children of Quest staff and faculty. President Peter Englert did not issue a statement about October 3rd to issue a statement about the change. “Quest students are excellent at finding creative solutions,” he wrote, “and we look forward to hearing them.”
The demonstration, which included a public dialogue, aimed to provide a space for students to organize, play music, and discuss how to develop a new Music Bay. As the day went on, however, the conversation refocused around what students see as a fundamental lack of communication between different groups at the school, particularly students and the executive.
Fifth-year student Annie Borch, who co-organized the demonstration alongside fifth-year Barbora Varnaite, addressed Quest’s Executive Team during the talking circle: “I want to ask the executive, what is your vision? Can you lay that out for us, so we can understand where you’re going?”
Borch, among many others, expressed that the communications breakdown is the fault of both staff and students. “Clearly, the values of the students are not being clearly communicated to people on campus.”
Chief Academic Officer Ryan Derby-Talbot, who attended both the open mic and talking circle, said that the decision to remove the Music Bay was made “during the summer time by a special task force appointed by the President.” He added that the school’s Executive Team did not meet during the summer and was not involved in the decision.
A few of the musicians in attendance noted how reliant Quest has been on student musicians in the past to provide music for official events. “The administration has to take musicians’ needs into account,” said second-year student Satori Clarke, noting that official arts events such as Cabaret are “a huge part of admissions.”
Fourth-year Aren Ludlow, who has played at several convocations as well as at Questival, expressed similar frustration. Ludlow said that each time before he and his friends played an official Quest event, “we used the Music Bay to practice in.”
The demonstration also brought out the ire of first-year students, who had expected to have a communal space to play music when they arrived on campus in the fall. “Quest sells itself as an institution that has the ability to fund all sorts of programs,” said first-year Anya at the demonstration. “When I arrived,” she continued, “there was nowhere for me to express myself and work on my music in a safe and communal setting.”
SRC President Marcela Villaça said that the school was able to remove the Music Bay without consulting students because there was no written policy keeping it in place. “It was never part of a written agreement between the students and the university,” she added, “so the university felt it was a place they could take up whenever they wanted.”
“We’re working on a document that accommodates other student-run spaces,” Villaça continued, citing the Arts Bay and the climbing gym as examples, “to ensure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”
For now, students will continue to go without an official space to play music on campus. Varnaite, however, expressed that the loss of the Music Bay goes beyond that. “We want to maintain the human interactions,” she said. “That’s what brought me here in the first place.”