The McGill Council (left to right): Sydney Stewart, Kelly Morgan, Jessica Barker, Brigitte Jia, Jadyn Rodgers, Miquéla Thornton, Ruochen Li, Jessica Mo, Alice Ding, and Adanna Brown photographed on August 23, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Morgan).
The McGill Council (left to right): Sydney Stewart, Kelly Morgan, Jessica Barker, Brigitte Jia, Jadyn Rodgers, Miquéla Thornton, Ruochen Li, Jessica Mo, Alice Ding, and Adanna Brown photographed on August 23, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Morgan).

GUEST EDITORIAL: You Should Live in McGill Next Year, and Here’s Why

If you want a dorm filled with people who share your passions and welcome your weirdness, McGill is the home for you.

February 24, 2022

The McGill Project is an artist colony, a safe space and the home of the alt scene you didn’t know Vandy had. It’s the only dorm that has seceded from Vanderbilt University, and it’s known colloquially as “where the freaks are” (see the infamous 2004 Nashville Scene article). Technically speaking, it’s a Living Learning Community founded on the ideals of creative expression, inclusive community and free thought. At its heart lies a collective of welcoming people dedicated to creativity and the arts.

McGill is much more than just a residence hall—it’s a communal space for people of all majors and academic disciplines to pursue creative endeavors, whether or not they normally do so in their classes.

In the 1970s, McGill declared autonomy from Vanderbilt University. As such, we have a unique capacity for self-governance. We allow alcohol in about half of our common spaces (for those of age); we’ve made all the bathrooms on all but one floor gender-neutral; we display murals and artwork throughout the building; we allow students of any gender to be roommates; and, every time we host an event, we open it to the entire community, not just individual floors.

Every month, we host McGill Coffeehouses, open mic nights that feature music, comedy, dance, poetry, performance art and the iconic Munchie Mart Song. We have McGill Hours, a weekly speaker series that addresses social activism, academic research, personal self-care and every topic in between. At the end of the year, we feature creative works from every member of the Project in our spring showcase. Alongside these events, we offer tea times, holiday parties, DIY arts events, service opportunities and an end-of-year formal, among other programming. On the full moon, community members congregate on Alumni Lawn to release tension through some hearty yelling known as “Cathartic Scream.”

There’s no one way to pursue the arts in McGill. You have free reign to focus your energy however you’d like. Whether you’re looking for a quiet space to write, free art materials, people to listen to your new Spotify single, a casual group to paint with, a how-to event teaching you the basics of drag makeup, gallery space to show off your crochet work, we’ve got you covered.

McGill Project residents in the building’s lobby (left to right): Josh Villatuya, Gabrielle Blackburn, Philip Gubbins, Annie Mullins, Isabella Calzolano, Kelly Morgan, Ian O’Neill, Rosa Brooks photographed December 8, 2019 (Photo courtesy of Kelly Morgan)

We’ve stocked our community spaces with art supplies, board games, video games, TVs and musical instruments. We have a community library and a community sound system. We’ve hung paintings in the hallways, and our main staircase features an interpretive mural of Dante’s Inferno. We also boast a system called “lobbying.” If you have food, clothing or anything else you don’t want, just leave it in the lobby, and other residents will come claim it. Every few days, new things are donated. Residents send pet photos in the group chat, study together in the classroom and bake desserts for the community. We’re fond of pranks, and in the winter, we’re known for iconic snowmen. Everyone who wants to live in a single gets a single, and we have doubles available as well. The building actually has some of the largest singles on campus, a few of which include not one, but two closets.

What’s most important to us, though, is that McGill provides a college experience that diverges from the standard Vanderbilt model. The Project allows people to cultivate hobbies and interests outside of academics, and it’s always had a way of intentionally creating space for unique perspectives and diverse talent. The community is naturally uplifting; it embraces the weird, the niche and the off-beat— you don’t find that in many other places.

Jeri Katz performs at the McGill coffeehouse on Oct. 22, 2021 (Photo courtesy of Kelly Morgan). (Kelly Morgan)

Each of us has found a family in this building. “Living in McGill marked the first time I truly felt like I had a home on campus,” said McGill President Kelly Morgan. “I still remember touring the building, how I couldn’t stop smiling and thinking to myself, ‘Oh my god, I’ve found my people.’” 

“I’m happy and proud to have called McGill my home the last three years!” commented Brigitte Jia, Learning Coordinator. “The Project is far more than just a dorm space, and the community serves as an immense source of support for me on campus. I’ve definitely found a place of belonging here.”

“The community is naturally uplifting and has no shortage of cathartic opportunities,” added Recruitment Director Adanna Brown. “Nowhere else on campus have I felt more wholly included, safe, and appreciated.”

Everyone here feels comfortable asking each other for help because we know the people here will always have our backs. We make it a priority to take care of each other.

McGill matters. A lot of us come to Vanderbilt expecting the close-knit social experience we’ve been sold by teachers, TV shows and recruitment brochures. However, we arrive on campus and realize that it’s harder to make friends than it looks like. When your interests or identities don’t fit the Vandy mold, it’s easy to feel isolated and disconnected from other people. McGill strives to be a home for anyone who finds themself in this position—anyone who’s still looking for a place to call home at Vandy, anyone who wants a community they can rely on. If you want a dorm of a hundred people, not a thousand, a dorm filled with people who share your passions and welcome your weirdness, McGill is the home for you.

McGill applications are live on the housing portal until February 25th.

Editor’s Note: Members of the McGill Council contributed to this piece, which includes Hustler Editor-in-Chief Jessica Barker and former Opinion Editor and current writer Miquéla Thorton. 

McGill Council members: Jessica Barker (Secretary), Adanna Brown (Recruitment Director), Alice Ding (Programming Director), Brigitte Jia (Learning Coordinator), Ruochen Li (Director of Alumni Relations), Jessica Mo (Publicity Chair), Kelly Morgan (President), Jadyn Rodgers (Community Standards Director), Miquéla Thornton (Creative Arts Coordinator), Sydney Stewart (Chief Financial Officer)

 

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