The dining hall may not be conducive to large student gatherings, but Simmons’s 341 residents easily organize in cyberspace. An e-mail list known as Sponge-talk is the dorm’s lifeline; freshmen look there for help on problem sets and news of free food. Even the word “lounge” has been reinvented: in Simmons, it can mean a cavernous meeting space filled with funky furniture–or a group that uses Sponge-talk and a small, internal rush to recruit enough members to gain house funds for events. The “Jockocracy” lounge watches sports. The “Power Set” studies for the Putnam Competition, a cash-prize math exam.
Of course, these aren’t the only opportunities for socializing. Freshmen meet for cereal on the terraces, for cheesecake in the late-night café. On Sunday nights, the basement and first floor fill with sounds of the dorm orchestra, and graduate students gather underclassmen for snacks and study breaks, which help freshmen–even those in the towers–make friends. Visiting scholars sharing the dorm with students include a resident monk, who has led terrace meditations.
In September, Tripathi, Mehta, grad student Dheera Venkatraman, and others went to work with duct tape and LED lights on some of Simmons’s windows. In a midnight Sponge-talk message Tripathi urged residents to go to the football field and look at the building. In letters that spanned two stories, the lit windows spelled “Welcome to Simmons.”
By then, even Ellison had warmed to the Sponge. “Although its architecture takes some getting used to,” she says, “Simmons is a highly livable dorm.”